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Pot cookbooks moving to the mainstream as legalization movement grows

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There are books about cooking with herbs. And then there are books about cooking with herb.

Yes, we're talking cannabis cuisine, a small niche in the culinary world but one that is drawing more interest as the legalization movement moves pot closer to the mainstream.

"When I sell books personally at events like Seattle Hempfest and Denver County Fair, response has been huge in those states that have newly legalized, and I will sell hundreds of copies over a weekend," says Elise McDonough, author of the "The Official High Times Cannabis Cookbook," which grew out of the recipe column in the magazine (which, by the way, turns 40 this year).

McDonough, who lives in Santa Cruz, California, has a new book out this summer, "Marijuana for Everybody," which includes a chapter on cooking with cannabis, as well as advice on selecting edibles from newly legal retailers in Washington state and Colorado, the two states that allow the recreational use of marijuana.

"I think as the legalization juggernaut continues to roll across the nation, you're going to see a lot more interest and a lot more books," says McDonough.

Finding hard data on pot cookbook sales is tough. But a look at Amazon's rankings show that several, including McDonough's, are enjoyed renewed sales vigour, particularly considering their specialty status and that most are at least several years old. McDonough says about 35,000 copies of the High Times cookbook have sold, a respectable total for a niche genre.

Titles in the marijuana cookbook category include "The Ganja Cookbook Revolution" by Jessica Catalano, "Baked: Over 50 Tasty Marijuana Treats," and "The Cannabis Gourmet Cookbook," by Cheri Sicard.

Sicard, like McDonough, has a new book coming out — "Mary Jane: The Complete Marijuana Handbook for Women" — cheekily set for release on 4-20-15, an unofficial holiday for marijuana fans. And it, too, goes beyond recipes to take more of a general lifestyle approach.

Sicard has noticed an uptick in interest since legalization, though not a drastic one, since a number of states already allow medical use of marijuana. She also notes that people have been cooking with pot for a long time. Pot brownies, after all, are practically a cliche.

But brownies, points out Sicard, are not the only choice for the marijuana cook. In fact, it's easier to work with the pronounced herbal taste of the drug in savory dishes.

Sicard, who lives in the Los Angeles area, was a food writer before she became a marijuana recipe expert. That's a skill she developed after getting a medical recommendation to take marijuana for chronic nausea. Researching ways to use marijuana, and wading through advice both good and bad on the Internet, prompted her to write her own book.

"There is a lot of misinformation out there and that is why there is the need for good cookbooks," she says.

Krista Lyons, publisher of Berkeley, California.-based Seal Press, which is publishing Sicard's new book, has seen the market change for marijuana books. It's not that no one published them before; there's a history of small publishers releasing books about marijuana. But now "you can walk into an Urban Outfitters and find a book about pot on a front table," she says. "It's just an indicator that attitudes have shifted."

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Michelle Locke tweets at https://twitter.com/Locke_Michelle

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