Cannabidiol (CBD) — the non-hallucinogenic ingredient in cannabis meant to promote relaxation — could be headed to your neighborhood Starbucks.
Well, eventually. This week financial services company Cowen released a report predicting the CBD market could be worth $16 billion by 2025. More interestingly, it hinted that Starbuck’s could be one of the first major chains to offer cannabidiol-infused drinks.
In the report, Cowen analyst Andrew Charles noted that Starbuck’s probably wouldn’t adopt CBD in the “near term,” which makes sense since no major chain will put it on their menu until the FDA gives its stamp of approval. However, he went on to write that, should the regulation of CBD change, “we could envision Starbucks ultimately piloting the ingredient.”
That’s pretty theoretical language. Starbuck’s hasn’t made any indication that it’s actually exploring cannabis-infused beverages. In an interview with CNBC, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson stated that Starbucks was aware of the edible/drinkable cannabis trend, though it didn’t have any immediate plans to pilot any drinks with THC or CBD.
It seems like the Cowen report called out Starbuck’s less because of any concrete hint from the company and more to illustrate a future in which CBD is so mainstream, it’s available somewhere as ubiquitous as Starbuck’s.
However, it will likely be a while yet before that’s the case. Though CBD-infused beverages have been popping up at local coffee shops and bodegas for some time, the chemical hasn’t been approved as “food-safe” by the FDA (despite its becoming legal with the passage of the Farm Bill in 2018).
Up until recently most CBD edibles sellers have been operating under the radar with little to no consequences. However, last month New York City health inspectors cracked down and put a citywide embargo on selling food or drink infused with CBD. The ban was recently delayed until this summer.
The FDA likely won’t approve CBD as food-safe by then, and some see the NYC crackdown as a bellwether for more restrictions on the sale of cannabidiol-infused food and drinks. But that doesn’t negate the fact that demand for the non-hallucinogenic ingredient is on the rise, thanks in part to celebrity endorsements and the recent “wellness” movement.
We’ve written before that despite all the buzz surrounding CBD beverages, it’ll likely be a while before it’s ready for the mainstream.