By, Toni Denis
The largest cannabis dispensary in Arizona plans to open a commercial kitchen by early October 2018 that will provide fresh, customized, infused food to meet a wide range of dietary and medical needs.
The operators of The Mint Dispensary said their kitchen addition to their Tempe-area cannabis dispensary will be the first in the United States to offer healthful, gourmet food to go and to order, while also allowing for customized doses that begin at 10 mg of specific ratios of THC and CBD.
Located in Guadalupe, near Arizona State University in Tempe, the kitchen’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack menus will accommodate about 1,000 patients a day. The kitchen’s target clientele ranges from college students to baby boomer “snowbirds” who arrive from outside the state to stay in the Salt River Valley during the winter.
The owners invested $2 million into the new, expanded location. Raul Molina, chief operating officer of The Mint Dispensary, said older medical marijuana patients had sought healthful edibles beyond the typical sweet candies and shelf-stable baked goods found at dispensaries. As a result, their kitchen menu now includes salads, take-and-bake pizzas, and fresh pastries. Due to Arizona’s legal status as a medical use-only state, take-out was the only viable option for a kitchen use, Molina said.
“The difference between this and 99 percent of the kitchens out there, is that we have a full range of edibles that are fresh, with no preservatives,” Molina told Marijuana.com, noting that it’s a display kitchen, too. “All of the other kitchens are tucked behind a cultivation site or outside of the dispensary and hidden away. Here, you can see through the windows, 5 feet away from you, and watch the hustle and bustle of what’s going on in the kitchen.”
Chef Carylann Principal oversees the kitchen and menu that also features gourmet vegan fare and gluten-free options. Principal, a cervical and uterine cancer survivor of 14 years, trained at the French Culinary Institute in New York. Though she worked for most of her career as a personal chef and caterer, she made her first cannabis-infused meal only a decade ago. A Phoenix woman recovering from a double mastectomy asked her to infuse meals with Rick Simpson oil, a high-THC oil derivative often known as RSO.
“I made a butternut squash ravioli,” Principal told Marijuana.com. “The next morning, she walked in the kitchen and told me she slept eight hours for the first time in years and woke up hungry after not having an appetite. … It was a really great experience.”
Molina said he’s thrilled with the quality of the food. He and the staff have the pleasure of sampling the dishes before they are infused with CBD oil. “She brings us burgers and pizzas, pastas, and oatmeal cookies that are so good, I had to take one home for my wife,” Molina said.
Principal created more than a dozen versions of her vegan burger before settling on a final recipe. “She has a really positive attitude and has a history that lends itself to having more passion for the product.”
“We searched far and wide to get her whatever she wanted,” Molina said. “She’s a rock star.”
While Molina has enjoyed non-infused food items, all of the dishes sold at The Mint Dispensary will be infused with cannabis to avoid any potential liability. Patients are not allowed to consume food on-site and then drive; they must take food to go.
“For right now we don’t plan to offer food without THC—we don’t want it to lead to the wrong perception,” Molina said. “As much as this industry has grown, we still have to defend ourselves. … If a patient comes to the dispensary and buys a soda that’s not infused, then they leave the dispensary drinking it and someone took a photo and they could say they were imbibing in THC and driving. We have to be cautious.”
Along with the kitchen, the dispensary’s size makes it a unique experience for cannabis patients, with 23 stations to serve customers and a viewing area where employees will roll cannabis cigarettes to order, blunts, and create custom vape cartridges.
“We’re turning the Mint into an experience, and we want to be the pride and joy of Arizona,” Molina said. “In about two to three months, we will have our delivery app ready and we will be the only place in the United States where you can get your medicine and a pizza to go.”
In a press release, The Mint Dispensary’s CEO, Eivan Shahara, said the kitchen will help patients on their path to wellness.
“We know that the right kinds of healthy foods can help people to battle a variety of illnesses, from cancer and epilepsy to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases,” Shahara wrote. “We’re using our knowledge about food and nutrition to help patients in their search for fresh, healthy snacks and infused meals.”
And, yes, they will sell that classic of infused edibles — brownies.