The growing trend of Cannabis-infused dinner parties
Marijuana is on track to be a billion-dollar business in Maryland after the state legalized recreational use almost five months ago.
Entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the demand—including for private dinner parties where the food is infused with cannabis.
WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren takes you inside a dinner party with marijuana on the menu.
Chef Jazmine Moore is putting the last-minute touches on her meal, rubbing a compound butter with cannabis and spices on her spatchcock Moroccan chicken.
The table is set.
And the guests are just starting to arrive at the private home near National Harbor for a meal that is anything but ordinary.
"A lot of people are moving away from alcohol, and they are looking for more alternative ways, maybe just to relax and enjoy," said Moore, who goes by Chef Jazz. "So that's where a lot of our clientele finds us. They're looking for approachable ways to use cannabis, and what better way is there than a dinner party?"
Each course is infused with cannabis.
Chef Jazz says you'll feel the equivalent of having a few glasses of wine by the end of the meal.
"Most of my dinner parties, I kind of say it's around two glasses of wine, like a nice red wine. Not too much. We do suggest people take ride shares and they have to sign waivers," she said. "I always say this: You don't have to be high to be healthy. If that's your thing, that's fine, but overdoing it, I'm starting to see that way too much."
She said she advises people to "know their numbers" and does consultations with her guests before each event.
"Make sure people are over 21, all that type of stuff, but also, 'Where are you? What's your relationship with cannabis?'"
For her, this is a labor of love.
Chef Jazz went to culinary school in Baltimore but thought it would all be derailed after being diagnosed with Crohn's Disease, which caused digestive problems so severe she could barely eat.
She told Hellgren cannabis helped her overcome the symptoms and turn her career in a new direction.
"I actually went to culinary school in Baltimore in 2006, this was the same time I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease," Moore said. "I dropped down to around 84 pounds. I was on five medications as well, and I was supposed to have a colostomy bag. I was 23 years old. That was supposed to be my life."
Her business, The Green Panther Chef, specializes in cooking with cannabis, and she isn't allowing social stigma to hold her back.
"I had been a closet user for quite some time. I was very apprehensive to come out of the cannabis closet," she said. "The reason being was the pushback, how you look and everything like that. I really feel I have something to say in this space, and it helps people."
She said she likes to "create space" at her dinner parties which typically last three hours and start off with a CBD-infused cocktail or a mocktail.
On a recent Friday evening, she invited us to join her guests on the journey—where they can relax with friends without the fear of a hangover.
More people want alternatives to alcohol:
In a recent Gallup poll, 39 percent of Americans said one to two drinks was unhealthy—a record-high number.
Cannabis could be just what they are looking for.
"It just helps people unwind," dinner party guest Shirdell Kenney told Hellgren. "A lot of times we have a lot of things going on in our day-to-day life, whether we're working a 9-to-5, at home with the kids or hustling and doing Uber, sometimes we get a little tense. With these events, you definitely want to give and just engulf yourself in the experience."
She wants to take away the stigma surrounding marijuana use.
"Cannabis helps bring down the anxiety and helps you just enjoy what's going on. I've seen people go from quiet to—once they get to eating and drinking—they'll be like, 'Hey, what's going on? Hi, everybody!' Laughing and enjoying everybody's company whether they know them or not."
Another guest, Ayanna Lawson, runs her own travel company Front Row Travels which is focused on cannabis-friendly getaways and experiences.
"We're not stoners. We're business owners," Lawson said, adding that she drew on her contacts in the traditional travel industry. "When I saw it checked all the boxes, I just took a leap. It hasn't been easy because we're still in a gray area as long as it's federally prohibited."
She estimates fewer than ten businesses nationwide are doing what she does today.
"The all-inclusive experience we associate with alcohol, they're doing with cannabis now. You have resorts that have dispensaries on the property, so you don't really have to leave for anything,"
Back at the dinner party, as we move to the table, Lawson leads the conversation, but the food is the star.
"If you want me to pull back let me know, or press it up let me know as well, but we're here to enjoy," Chef Jazz told her guests.
The first course is a butternut squash soup followed by a roasted pear salad.
One guest talked about how cannabis helped her as a thyroid cancer survivor. Another declared the food "just tastes better with weed" and "because of how Chef Jazz put it together, too."
The chef has her own cookbook and enjoys teaching others how to cook with cannabis.
She hopes marijuana will eventually be allowed to expand to restaurant menus in Maryland.
"A lot of restaurants are reaching out. They want to integrate some type of cannabis program, she said. "There are a lot of cafes in Maryland that want to have something cannabis related, but they want to make sure they do it right."
The guests declared Chef Jazz's classic dinner party with a modern twist a success.
Shirdell Kenney told us, "The difference between smoking a joint and eating…it's a better high and a more mellow high."
It's an elevated dining experience when marijuana is on the menu.
"This is a time of year to reflect," Chef Jazz said. "This Friendsgiving, what better way to do that than over cannabis?"