Should cooking with drugs (such as this question - especially before the edit) (legal or illegal) questions be on topic? I'm just going to leave it simple and at that.

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is this based on an actual question or a hypothetical? If there is an actual question, can you link it here? –  Jeff Atwood Sep 24 '11 at 23:11
    
@Jeff - actual, question linked. cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/17956/… –  rfusca Sep 25 '11 at 1:51
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Legal where and for whom? –  dmckee Oct 9 '11 at 22:51
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7 Answers 7

To quote Aaronut:

The culinary use of traditionally non-culinary ingredients is the basis for our [culinary-uses] tag, and with respect to masking flavour, we even had a question along those lines about cod liver oil. If a compound butter is still intended to be baked, and eaten, and the question is about preserving it as a food, then it's clearly a cooking question. The original revision was wading into off-topic territory but I can see no problem with the current edited version.

People put all sorts of weird stuff in their food (cod liver oil, wheat grass, protein powder, marijuana). They do if for health reasons, nutrition, superstition, giggles. In my mind, that's all relatively irrelevant. If the question is about cooking with it, then it's on topic. If the question isn't about cooking with it, then it's off topic.

Off Topic:

  • How do I use protein powder to maximize muscle gain in my super smoothie?
  • How do I maintain the magical properties of cod liver oil in my super smoothie?
  • How do I get as high as possible from the marijuana in my butter?

On Topic:

  • How do I stop getting clumps when I add my protein powder to my super smoothie?
  • How do I mask the flavor of cod liver oil in my super smoothie?
  • How do I stop my marijuana butter from growing mold?

I think it is probably a best practice to avoid putting drug names in the question title. There are some people that are touchy about this topic, and I don't see any harm in being sensitive to that.

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Drugs? What drugs?

What's a drug? You didn't really define it...

Wikipedia states,

A drug, broadly speaking, is any substance that, when absorbed into the body of a living organism, alters normal bodily function.

...which is pretty broad. I intend to take full advantage of this...

Legal drugs

There are currently 13 questions on the site. Some of them reasonably popular. None of them closed or disputed, so far as I can tell. There's even one directly concerning the flavor, and another regarding potency.

So as far as legal drugs go, this seems fairly (ahem) cut and dried... If you want to argue for excluding drug-questions, seems like an excellent place for you to start*!

*but first you'll have to pry my coffee out of my cold, shaking hands

Illegal drugs

Personally, I don't think the site should be tackling issues of law if it can be avoided. If I'm asking a question from a place where something is legal, and you're answering from somewhere it isn't... Well, don't answer. There are all sorts of foods that are illegal to sell or possess in one place or another; trying to enforce that on the site opens a very big can of worms.

Distasteful topics

Some folks are uncomfortable discussing drugs. Some folks are uncomfortable discussing foie gras, or meat. I'm probably most sympathetic to the notion that we should avoid a topic because it might drive away readers... But this can only go so far. We're not banning meat, or segregating vegetarians on their own site. If a question is asked in good faith, is constructive and otherwise on-topic, then I cannot see that we are justified in excluding it simply because a few squeamish folk might recoil... Tag it, and let them ignore it if they must.

I'm told both nutmeg and lettuce are hallucinogenic in sufficient quantity. I would hope we possess the discretion to exclude questions on the, um, recreational use of either, while still allowing them as the subject of serious questions on culinary use, serving, preserving, food safety, etc.

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I left it rather intentionally broad, so that the discussion could go whereever it needed to. –  rfusca Sep 24 '11 at 13:44
    
I agree, I don't think they should be off-topic if the questions are otherwise constructive questions. I could argue that 'effect' questions are reasonable as they are a component of the cooking process, but there are better places for that on the internet, surely. –  Katey HW Sep 26 '11 at 14:13
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An amendment based on some chat discussion. I think it'd be ok if:

  1. The particular item was not in the title of the question - its just not something that needs to be advertised.

  2. The question is not about the 'effect' that the drug produces - how to keep it, enhance it, change it, etc. This would really be more health related and not culinary.

  3. The question has culinary merit otherwise. It asks about techniques, tastes, textures, etc that if weren't drug related would be acceptable otherwise.

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I think knives brings up an interesting point. Which drugs? Caffeine, alcohol, tobacco? Weed? Opium? Magic Mushrooms? Are we going off legality in the US? If so, should we make un-pasteurized cheese off topic? –  yossarian Sep 24 '11 at 14:55
    
@yossarian - i think that's a perfectly valid point - and part of why it was an open of a question - because that has to be decided. Is there an international health organization we might be able to use for classification? –  rfusca Sep 24 '11 at 15:00
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I'm most receptive to Shog9's argument about "illegal" drugs not necessarily being illegal in every region - and this is supposed to be an international site. I'd upvote the bottom half of this answer, but not the top half; I think it's equally polarizing to suggest that something shouldn't be discussed simply because it's illegal somewhere, whether that somewhere is the USA or Mongolia. –  Aaronut Sep 24 '11 at 17:31
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@aaronut I'm going to leave it at the bottom part then, because i think its the most appropriate for a general audience. I'm hardcore against it - but i know a small portion of the world isn't –  rfusca Sep 24 '11 at 18:16
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Please, give me a break. Once you edited out the potency reference (which was clearly off topic), leaving the rest is just gratuitous grandstanding. It's asked simply to provoke.

This isn't a drug issue or an issue of legality. It's a content issue and what you want for this site. Are you even asking yourself if this is a legitimate, professional culinary discussion that makes the site better?

You reject content on its (lack of) merits all the time. If I asked "What is the cheapest way to feed immigrant farm workers…", we wouldn't be having this conversation. Not because some of those immigrants might be undocumented, but because it is completely irrelevant to the question. It's asked gratuitously only to provoke. But somehow talk of "drugs" (and, strangely enough, profanity) bring out all the "Ooo... we have to embrace this because of free speech and all." Nonsense.

If you think the subject improves the site — If you think it reaches out to your target audience — argue the merits of the question. But shrouding the discussion in pseudo-free-speech arguments and straw-man culinary pretexts only does yourself a disservice.

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"You reject content on its (lack of) merits all the time" - we also try to salvage poor content with good edits all the time, do we not? In this case - and I can understand if some people didn't realize this at the outset, but it's been mentioned several times now - the specific preparation actually is relevant to the question, and although the specific ingredient may not be, failure to name the "herb" would almost certainly result in several follow-up comments of "why the hell would anybody prepare it that way?" –  Aaronut Sep 28 '11 at 12:17
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@aaronut - I think if a group of culinary minded people have to ask 'why the hell would anybody prepare it that way' - I have to wonder if its relevant in a culinary sense then. If there is no other prep similar, then I doubt its merit from a culinary standpoint. It must be prepared that way for some reason other than culinary concerns. –  rfusca Sep 28 '11 at 15:49
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@rfusca: Absolutely false. The ability to actually cook with this butter is precisely the purpose of making it. If you go to, say, Amsterdam, I'm quite sure you'll find "culinary minded" people discussing it. Likewise if you asked a predominantly American audience about preparing, say, tiger penis, you'd get mostly blank stares, but there will be plenty of people in mainland China who can answer. I don't normally harp on Americans, but this is a highly regional political bias, and in typical American fashion, you all seem to be oblivious to that fact. –  Aaronut Sep 28 '11 at 16:03
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Also see Legality of Cannabis - it's been fully decriminalized in several countries and is legal for medicinal use in several more and nearly 30% of the U.S. There's a significant part of the world that doesn't necessarily encourage it but treats it with the same mild indifference as fortified wine. –  Aaronut Sep 28 '11 at 16:08
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@Aaronut - Well I'm not going to get in an extended discussion in the comments there - we can take it to chat sometime. But, I'm a little tired of people pretending their bias free here - that's not reality. Everybody lives life and makes decisions based on the way they see the world. Statistically, many more Canadians feel the way you do about pot than much of the rest of the world...so you're dealing with a 'highly regional political bias' too - just in the other direction. –  rfusca Sep 28 '11 at 16:09
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@Aaronut - RC makes the excellent point...its simply not about legality. –  rfusca Sep 28 '11 at 16:09
    
@Aaronut - They're making butter for use yes, but they're not making it like that because it needs to be made like that for a compound butter...they're making it like that to keep the effect....which isn't relevant from a culinary standpoint. –  rfusca Sep 28 '11 at 16:12
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@rfusca: Have you traveled much? Because I can tell you from experience that this just isn't true. It's not even true in a lot of the northern U.S. states. We're talking about one question here, not a front page that's flooded with them, and due to its rather limited culinary properties I'm not seeing any slippery slope. If just 10% of the world is at least tolerant of something then it stands to reason that it should be allowed to occupy 0.01% of the site. –  Aaronut Sep 28 '11 at 16:14
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@rfusca: How is not about legality? What is it about, then? Are you going to argue that making cannabis butter is somehow immoral or dangerous? Is it harming somebody? –  Aaronut Sep 28 '11 at 16:16
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@Aaronut, I think the argument is that it's not cooking. You add marijuana to brownies for the effect rather than any culinary reason, at least that seems to be the argument that's being made. I'm not sure how it would differ from a question about hiding the flavor of wheat grass which is also being added for a reason other than culinary. –  yossarian Sep 28 '11 at 19:57
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Let's define "culinary reason" then. I guess we will agree that it involves going beyond mere nutrition, and well into the realm of enjoying the pleasures of senses such as taste, smell, sight and touch. And even hearing, according to The Fat Duck. So, leaving legality aside (which has been discussed already), what's wrong with cannabis as a sense-pleasing ingredient? Why isn't that culinary? –  CesarGon Sep 28 '11 at 22:26
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@yossarian: That's precisely how I look at it. The culinary use of traditionally non-culinary ingredients is the basis for our [culinary-uses] tag, and with respect to masking flavour, we even had a question along those lines about cod liver oil. If a compound butter is still intended to be baked, and eaten, and the question is about preserving it as a food, then it's clearly a cooking question. The original revision was wading into off-topic territory but I can see no problem with the current edited version. –  Aaronut Sep 29 '11 at 0:23
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I have no complaints about medical marijuana in general.

I do have an issue with asking questions about retention of medical potency.

I'd vote to close it if someone had asked about a compound butter made with St. John's Wort and asked about maintaining 'medicinal efficacy'.

(okay, I do have one complaint about some of the growers -- I was at a hotel near the convention center that was holding the 'Colorado Indoor Growing Expo', and those @!#!@#%holes were partying 'til at least 3am, while I was trying to sleep.)

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Actually I think Joe's argument about the efficacy as a medicinal quality is the paramount consideration here; if the OP wants flavor, we answer. However, if we draw the line at nutrition, why wouldn't we draw the line at psychoactivity of a compound? In this question, preservation of the THC is the inferred concern; as such the question is out of scope. Reefer the OP to a drug interactions or nutrition stack; cooking.se isn't the right place. –  mfg Oct 4 '11 at 20:21
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I suspect the question was somewhat flame bait

The OP could have just asked about oregano butter, and got a useful answer

The OP choose to go somewhere which is problematic in many parts of the world

Why get the SA site banned in some countries, for a fringe question

SA doesn't do cocktails for the same/similar reason, right?

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1) cocktails are on topic. 2) I don't think it was flame bait. It was a very poorly worded question without enough details and suffered badly from ESL. However, the OP came back and answered the relevant questions about technique. Looks like a legit question to me and not a trolling attempt. –  yossarian Sep 26 '11 at 12:13
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If it was flame bait (and under the circumstances, that does not appear to be the case), then the most effective way to prevent any flaming is to just answer it and move on, and not pay any special attention to it. If the mere mention of a drug is going to get us banned somewhere, then this meta discussion is probably doing a lot more damage than the original question. –  Aaronut Sep 26 '11 at 12:31
    
I agree that it was not flame bait, just poorly worded due to ESL. –  Katey HW Sep 26 '11 at 14:15
    
Fair comment, but (other than he was stoned), why didn't OP ask about "herb" butter? Hopefully with meta being a sub site it wont get the main site blocked/filtered –  TFD Sep 27 '11 at 12:57
    
How about someone edit the question to "herb butter" and we can all move on. I live in a country with 10% of the population as regular "herb" users. No need to advertise it, but it's part of some peoples lives. Healthier to eat than smoke apparently? –  TFD Sep 27 '11 at 13:03
    
@TFD: this has been discussed a few times, but see the revised question - this isn't exactly a technique I would use with, say, basil. –  Shog9 Sep 27 '11 at 17:00
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Legality

The issue of legality is not the focus. Laws change, and what's legal in one place can be illegal in the next. For this reason, the legality of a drug should have nothing to do with determining whether a question is on topic or not.

Definition of Drugs

I guess we could try to use a wholly generic, yet precise, dictionary/encyclopedic definition of "drugs" and include caffeine, nutmeg, and lettuce or any other chemical which "alters normal body function".

However, I think that's overreaching quite a bit, and clearly isn't what I had in mind.

I think what it comes down to is:

Common Sense and Culinary Relevence

I'd like to think that common sense separates marijuana, cocaine, heroin, prescription medication, hallucinogenic mushrooms, et al. from ingredients such as nutmeg or lettuce.

I acknowledge that caffeine and alcohol are rather ambiguous, and could easily be considered drugs. However, alcohol is very prevalent in cooking, and we have also thoroughly discussed it's topicality for this site, and decided that it is on topic.

Regarding caffeine, while we have not had a formal discussion regarding it's topicality, the fact that it is very widely consumed, very widely used in cooking (unavoidably in many cases), and that questions regarding it were broached and answered without controversy or even a second thought tell me that it passes the common sense and culinary relevance test.

The remaining drugs all have a few things in common:

  • Rarely used in cooking
  • Not taught or used in any culinary course
  • Have non-trivial mood/mind altering properties
  • Common sense says they are drugs
  • Can reflect poorly on our sites professional image

I think we should be extra careful and cognizant of the last bullet point. I know that if I were new to this site and I stumbled across a front page that had a question about cooking with marijuana that I would dismiss the site and go elsewhere. Since I am obviously biased here, it's worth noting that we have a food blogging new user that says the same.

In closing, permitting drug oriented cooking questions is a can of worms that would best be left closed. Some may call these straw-man arguments, but where do we draw the line on "well-asked" questions such as:

  • How can I incorporate cocaine into my _?
  • What's wrong with my heroin brown sugar syrup?
  • How can I store my human semen béchamel?

P.S. Cannibalism was a common sense off topic issue. In my opinion, these drugs (and semen) should be too.

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It also occurs to me that we should consider the potential side effect of having our site being caught by nanny filters in use by schools or employers if drugs are topics here. (I have no idea what kind of bars they set). –  hobodave Sep 26 '11 at 18:06
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Says the guy going on about semen in his post. ;o) –  yossarian Sep 26 '11 at 18:22
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I agree with the last bullet point. The problem is that the human mind has a special reaction to "hot" topics. I mean, who of us can list any novels by Nabokov beside Lolita? And if somebody asks about a Sharon Stone movie, which one is the first people think of? There is a real danger that if we try to treat the topic level-headed and give a serious culinary answer to a single cannabis butter question among 4000 prosaic kitchen question, the rest of the world won't act as levelheaded and will know us as "that site which teaches you how to cook cannabis butter". And I dislike being notorious. –  rumtscho Sep 26 '11 at 19:48
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Meh, I can't agree with any answer that tries to use "common sense" as a justification. –  Aaronut Sep 27 '11 at 16:33
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