I Ate Deep-Fried Cannabis Leaves: Here’s Everything You Need To Know

jackie with fried hemp leaf
I Tried Deep-Fried Cannabis LeavesJackie Iadonisi

I'm not much of a pot smoker, but when I scrolled past an Instagram post about a fried cannabis leaf appetizer, I was intrigued. It was an entire marijuana leaf deep-fried in chickpea flour with a dash of black pepper and garlic. I had to try it. The next day I made a reservation at Gusto Green in Los Angeles, which has since closed (this was a year ago).

When I got there I was greeted by Michael Magliano, the first chef to bring legal hemp to the Los Angeles culinary scene. I have always associated eating cannabis with getting stoned, so I was shocked when he told me that the actual leaves have only .074% of THC content by weight, meaning they can’t get you high. I recently shared my experience eating the fried hemp leaf on Instagram, and I was flooded with so many questions: Did you get high? What did it taste like? Where can I get it?

I recently caught up with Magliano to chat more about the dish, its nutritional benefits, and his hopes for the future of culinary cannabis.

Jackie Powell: What inspired you to put a fried hemp leaf on the menu?

Michael Magliano: The intention was to create a conversation starter. I wanted to create a dish with a high impact. In the cannabis world we have this thing called the entourage effect, which is synergy. That got me thinking of how we could take in other communities to make this dish have a greater impact. We partnered with People's Pottery Project, formerly incarcerated people in the LGBTQ community to make plates specifically for that dish. Whenever I had the opportunity to deliver the leaves to a table it was important for me to bring awareness, recognizing that while we now serve this current novelty let’s not forget the 40,000 still in jail over this very leaf. That was the true intention behind the crispy hemp leaf.

Powell: So many people asked if I felt anything after eating the leaves. Can you get high from eating them?

Magliano: What people are smoking these days have 30%-plus THC. This stuff has a small fraction of half a percent. It wasn't designed to get you high.

Powell: Did anyone ever claim to have gotten high after eating them?

Magliano: Funny enough, we did have a couple of people who claimed they got high off of it. According to the lab test that we did, it was such a small percentage, and it wasn't a large serving either. I kind of call bluff on that.

michael magliano and hemp leaf
Chef Michael Magliano with a deep-fried hemp leaf.Jackie Iadonisi

Powell: How would you describe the taste of it?

Magliano: They are flavorful, gluten free, dairy free. It's a chickpea flower with a lot of black pepper and a little bit of garlic. So it has this nutty flavor. The leaf itself gives some kale notes. It’s like a protein chip. The hemp leaf is over 28% protein itself.

Powell: 28% protein?!

Magliano: Yes, it’s the most complete plant protein out there.

Powell: It blows my mind that something that has such incredible benefits is usually being discarded or composted. Can you not go to a weed shop and purchase cannabis leaves?

Magliano: Not yet. Here's what's in the future that I see. Once we get through regulatory stuff, this will be the next kale or the next spinach. Can you imagine having hemp sprouts instead of wheat grass at the juice shops?

Powell: What are your hopes for the cannabis industry as a whole?

Magliano: I just support the efforts of something that has a lot of potential for our food system. It’s a regenerative herb, it actually impacts the soil it's grown in in a positive way. It can help regenerate soil that we are killing in essence through monoculture. I have seen the hemp concrete that they build that's stronger than steel. I think it's pretty impressive what this plant is. It’s something that needs to be freed up.

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