Have you ever wanted to roll your vices together to make one uber-vice? No? Well now you can — sort of.
Companies are capitalizing on marijuana’s march towards widespread legalization by developing new ways to ingest Mary Jane. One method in particular that’s on the rise is cannabis-infused beverages, from beer to soda.
Brewery behemoths have read the writing on the wall, and are scrambling to capitalize on marijuana legalization. The Wall Street Journal reported that Colorado-based beer giant Molson Coors will team up with Canadian marijuana grower The Hydropothecary Corporation to make a non-alcoholic, cannabis-laced drink for the Canadian market. They’re hustling, since Canada will legalize recreational-use pot on October 17th, and marijuana edibles will become legal in 2019.
This move comes a few months after Constellation Brands, the company behind Modelo and Corona beer, took a minority stake in Canadian marijuana producer Cannabis Growth. In June, Heineken-owned Lagunitas teamed up with CannaCraft to make Hi-Fi Hops: two cannabis-infused beverages made with varying levels of THC (the psychoactive chemical in marijuana) and CBD (the relaxing chemical). The inventor of Blue Moon beer partnered with Ebbu to launch a THC-infused beer in Colorado.
Though they might be called “beer,” no cannabis-infused beverages on the market are actually alcoholic. Instead, they’re marketed as an alternative to booze; they’re meant to give the same relaxing effects in social situations, minus the calories and hangover. The majority of these beverages have a relatively low dose of THC, CBD, or both — around 5 grams — which is enough to bring on a buzz for most people, but not so much that you’ll pass out on the sofa after eating an entire box of Girl Scout cookies.
But cannabis beverages aren’t limited to beer (or “beer”). California Dreamin’, a company which makes marijuana-infused sodas in flavors like grapefruit and tangerine, raised $2.3 million in funding this week. Investors include famed startup accelerator Y Combinator and Paul Buchheit, creator of Gmail. The San Francisco-based startup markets its sugar-free, gluten-free wares as a social beverage and “a healthy alternative to beer.”
Seattle’s Cafe Hitchcock Express offers lattés infused with CBD, the non-psychoactive chemical in cannabis. Californian Rebel Coast Winery offers a Sauvignon Blanc which contains THC; their website promises the relaxing effects of alcohol, but with fewer calories and no hangover. Keef makes sparkling beverages with marijuana, which they market as “the go-to social option for people looking for a low-calorie, sugar free alternative to alcoholic beverages and sugary cannabis-infused edibles.”
It’s no surprise that these companies are scrambling to get a piece of the consumable cannabis pie. As we wrote in our piece on edibles earlier this year, cannabis-infused food and drink account for 18% of California’s marijuana sales, according to a Green Market report. Everyone, from emerging startups to CPG giants, is experimenting to figure out how to ride the wave as marijuana becomes legalized in more and more places.
This is especially critical for alcohol-peddling companies, which are experiencing a dip in sales in states where marijuana is legal. A study by Georgia State University in December 2017 found that alcohol consumption dipped by 15% in areas with access to legal marijuana. By developing a pot product of their own, companies hope to capture some of the booming cannabis market — or at least not let it disrupt them quite so much.