Author: Jake Cormier
As the markets for legal cannabis continue to expand nationwide, companies continue to develop new products to attract new customers in different commercial markets. Long gone are the days when smoking cannabis was the only way to receive its benefits and options for consumption now include vaping and eating tasty sweets or gourmet foods. And now the 30+ year-old craft beverage industry is crossing over with the cannabis space.
Beverage companies large and small are betting on continued growth in legal cannabis markets and also betting that the beverage consumer may look to replace (or at least compliment) alcohol consumption with THC and other cannabis-derived substances. Large beverage companies such as Pabst and Constellation have developed non-alcoholic “beers” and replaced the alcohol with intoxicating cannabis extract. Likewise, smaller THC-centric brewed beverage companies are also in start-up and growth mode. New cannabis-derived beverage products range from dealcoholized beer and wine that contain THC, to craft beverages that use terpenes (flavorful botanical compounds found in cannabis and other plants) to flavor alcoholic drinks, to cannabis-infused seltzers flavored like tequila or gin.
So, some beverages taste like alcoholic drinks, but contain only THC and others contain alcohol, but include flavors associated with cannabis. Notably, none of these beverages contain alcohol and THC due to the regulatory prohibition against mixing the two. Producing such products can require navigating complex malt or cereal beverage-related regulations and cannabis regulations. Further issues include questions on how the body handles THC in drink form, how beverage manufacturers are formulating THC levels and dosing, and how the consumer will control consumption. In other words, innovation in alcoholic and cannabis-infused beverages present exciting new consumption options, but also new risks and challenges.