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Bainbridge Island chef gears up for fight over cannabis coffee

A CBD oil infused Matcha Latte from Cafe Hitchcock. (Courtesy of Brenden McGill).

It’s not easy being green.

In February, Bainbridge Island-based chef Brendan McGill began offering a cannabis-infused latte at his cafe, Cafe Hitchcock, in downtown Seattle. That lasted about a month before Seattle King County Public Health told him he had to stop. McGill complied, at least in Seattle.

“The health department jumped in and said that the extracted oil of hemp is not on the FDA approved food additives list,” McGill told KTTH’s Jason Rantz. “You know, it’s not on there next to all the pesticides and preservatives and things.”

He did start offering the drinks at one of his Bainbridge Island locations, but was told him he had to stop.

McGill explained the real problem was really his high profile. Other, smaller shops were getting away with this on Bainbridge Island already. He wouldn’t name them, but he said they’re out there.

“If you’re in a little hippie head shop or pipe shop or something and they happen to have an espresso machine,” McGill said, “they are under the jurisdiction of the health department but maybe they float a little CBD oil on your Thai latte and nobody really cares.”

Tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, is the chemical in marijuana that causes the psychoactive experiences most people associate with cannabis consumption. Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, makes up about 40 percent of cannabis extracts, and it’s effects are much more understated. THC might alter a users time perception, sense of taste and perception of whether Seth Rogan movies are funny, while CBD is used by some to manage anxiety, bipolar disorder, or even multiple sclerosis. McGill was just using the CBD oil.

“It generates a sense of well being,” McGill said.

In California, the rules are little more lax, and this is where McGill originally got the idea to let customers pay for a CBD infusion in any of his drinks.

“You’ve got the Whole Foods-size organic market in West Hollywood,” McGill said, “and you can buy a little CBD lemonade out of a grab-and-go container. Like, no big deal.”

Sales of cannabis-infused drinks make up a negligible percentage of McGill’s sales, but he says he might continue the fight with King and Kitsap counties because the product truly seems to help people.

“If businesses who have a legitimate profile, who aren’t connected to marijuana, who aren’t in that space, don’t use our rights and assert ourselves in this way, it’ll stay on the fringe of society,” McGill said. “The benefits people could be getting from it, they won’t be able to access those benefits.”

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