To answer the first question you are undoubtedly thinking:
Yes, there were free samples when High Times editor and author Elise McDonough spoke about her book, The Official High Times Cannabis Cookbook last week at Bookshop Santa Cruz.
But, no, there were no active ingredients in the brownies she gave to everyone who bought the book on the first stop of her national tour.
The bookstore was full with casual marijuana ingesters as well as those who need the federally-illegal herb to help fight pain, sleeplessness and loss of appetite.
"I believe marijuana is health-positive," said McDonough in an interview before her talk. "It can prevent some diseases, such as some cancers and Alzheimer's disease. It increases your appreciation of food and is one of the only substances known to man that can increase your appetite."
It is particularly helpful to those undergoing cancer treatments that stop the body from tasting or wanting food and suffering the effects of a lack of nutrition in fighting the disease.
But, wait, there is more, she said.
"Cannabis elevates the most humble meal to the sacrament of the most high."
Literally and figuratively.
Published by Chronicle Books, the cookbook tracks the history of edible marijuana to India, where people made a cocktail of cannibis, milk, almonds and garem masala to celebrate a Hindu religious festival called Holi, a ceremony for the cannabis-loving deity Shiva.
In the ninth century Islamic text, One Thousand and One Nights, she writes, there is a story about hashish eaters and much later, in the U.S. of the 1800s, marijuana was sold in edible form over the counter to treat pain, depression and stomach cramps.
More recently edible cannabis is sold in dispensaries in brownies, cookies and butters, but she says, many of the products are infused with sugar or fats to keep them on the shelves longer.
Therein lies the rub. How healthy can weed be if it is housed in something with the nutritional value of a Kit Kat bar?
"If you need cannabis every day you need healthier options," said McDonough, 31, who has been editing at High Times for a decade.
Health concerns prompted her to write this collection of more than 50 recipes, with many healthful alternatives to using cannabis, as well as a few over-the-top sweet things.
"I've been a vegetarian since I was young and I've always been into food, nutrition and sustainable food. I've also always loved cannabis, to this got me to put the two together."
In keeping with current trends, many ingredients are local, organic, fresh and low in fat. Much of the cannabis is added in specially-made cooking oil.
Her biggest advice to new cannabis cookers is to "go low and go slow," which means start with low doses of THC and don't eat a lot right away.
Ingesting it through the stomach and liver can get people much more high than smoking it, she said, and bring on a near hallucinogenic experience. But it takes longer to feel the effects.
She told the Bookshop audience the story of the Florida policeman and his wife who ate too many weed brownies and got so high they called the police dispatcher because they thought they were dying. Hear the 911 call here.
McDonough said it is almost impossible to overdose by eating marijuana and estimated it would take nine ounces of hashish for a fatal dose.
Her recipes were gleaned from High Times, which published its first issue on edible weed in 1978, in an article called "Eat It." Some are by famous chefs, such as Bobby Hellen, who won New York's Rising Star Award in 2010 and who created a Kale and weed salad.
Others pay tribute to the likes of Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg and President Barack Obama. The book has a strong dose of humor, with chapters such as "High Holidays" and "Irie Appetizers" and recipies such as "Time-Warp Tamales" and "Ganja Granny's Smoked Mac'N' Cheese."
McDonough's first book, High Times Official Pot Smokers Handbook released in 2008, sold 60,000 copies. She hopes to top that with this one and she dreams of a time that weed is legal in Santa Cruz and the city uses it to attract tourists here.
"If we could just legalize it in Santa Cruz, we could show the country it's not so bad," she said. "People should look at it and say, marijuana use didn't destroy society. Santa Cruz is doing pretty good."