SANTA ROSA, Calif. — In the heart of Northern California’s wine country, a civil engineer turned marijuana industry entrepreneur is adding a new dimension to the art of matching fine wines with gourmet food: cannabis and wine pairing dinners.
Sam Edwards, co-founder of the Sonoma Cannabis Company, charges diners $100 to $150 for a meal that experiments with everything from marijuana-leaf pesto sauce to sniffs of cannabis flowers paired with sips of a crisp Russian River chardonnay.
“It accentuates the intensity of your palate,” Mr. Edwards, 30, said of the dinners, one of which was held recently at a winery with sweeping views of the Sonoma vineyards. “We are seeing what works and what flavors are coming out.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has equated marijuana with heroin and, on Wednesday, mentioned cannabis in the context of the “scourge of drug abuse.”
“I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store,” he said. “And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana, so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful.”
To the ears of many in California and other states where marijuana use has been legalized to varying degrees, the stigma Mr. Sessions attaches to cannabis feels like a holdover from the distant past.
Marijuana, which has been legal for medicinal purposes in California for two decades, can be ordered online for home delivery in the state’s largest cities. A former mayor of Oakland, Jean Quan, recently applied to open a marijuana dispensary in San Francisco.
The industry is already immense. Arcview, a company that conducts cannabis research, estimates that the California market alone is worth $7 billion.
America’s divided views on cannabis have produced a strange and uneasy stalemate. Recreational use is legal in eight states, including all those along the West Coast. At the same time, state governments are watching closely for hints on what the Trump administration plans to do.
In the past, the federal authorities have destroyed fields and prosecuted growers. Federal law still calls for a minimum prison sentence of five years for growing more than 100 marijuana plants, although under the Obama administration, the law was enforced only in cases involving violence or gangs.
The White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, recently warned of the possibility of “greater enforcement” against recreational use of marijuana.
Those working in the industry are constantly reminded of the federal government’s power to intervene in their business dealings, including severely limiting their access to the banking system.
“They can come in and ruin your whole life,” said Mr. Edwards, the marijuana industry entrepreneur. “They can throw you in prison, take your property.”
Yet, like so many others in the cannabis industry here — there are an estimated 9,000 growers in Sonoma County — Mr. Edwards is pressing ahead with his company, which specializes in growing and selling pesticide-free cannabis products. And he is planning more cannabis and wine pairing dinners.