Expectations have been riding high for CBD-infused beverages. CBD (cannabidiol), the non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that’s meant to promote relaxation and fight inflammation, has been popping up everywhere from beer to chocolate to dog treats.
Lately, CBD has been making an especially big splash in the beverage space. Sparkling water drink Recess, which contains 10 mg of CBD per can, frames itself as a relaxing, focus-inducing drink for the afternoon work slump. Major beverage corporations like Molson Coors, Constellation Brands, and Lagunitas have taken steps to develop drinks infused with CBD. The non-hallucinogenic extract is also showing up in lattés, non-alcoholic wine, and carbonated drinks.
But the rise of CBD-infused drinks might not be as straight a shot as it seems.
A few months ago rumors circulated that Coca-Cola was in talks with a Canadian marijuana producer to create cannabis-infused beverages. The move was seen as a way for the soda giant, which is trying to diversify its portfolio amidst a decline in soda sales, to tap into the fast-growing market of healthy, low-sugar beverages like tea and kombucha.
However, it seems that for now their cann-ambitions have cooled. A few days ago, the soda giant’s CEO told the Wall Street Journal that the company “won’t use cannabis-derived ingredients in the U.S. or elsewhere until they are legal and there is a scientific consensus that they are safe for daily consumption.”
They’re not the only high-profile company to run up against regulatory challenges for CBD sales. In late June of this year, fancy water startup Dirty Lemon released a product called +cbd. Each bottle contained 20 mg of the non-hallucinogenic cannabis extract, and was aimed at the “wellness” market. Earlier this week, BevNet reported that the company would discontinue sales of their +cbd drinks “until the regulatory framework around hemp-derived CBD is clarified on a federal and state level.”
According to the piece, Dirty Lemon ceased sales of +cbd because the contradictory laws made manufacturing and distribution prohibitively tricky. “Most essential services, such as banks, credit card processors, insurance companies, co-packers and even freight carriers are limiting exposure to the ingredient until clear regulatory guidance has been issued at both the Federal and State level,” he wrote to BevNet. “We’re following the same strategy moving forward.”
Combined, these two pieces of news will likely harsh the mellow of those who thought CBD beverage mania about to hit its heyday. But honestly, anyone who thought that cannabis-infused beverages — hallucinogenic or not — were on the brink of becoming as commonplace as a can of Bud Light was overly optimistic.
As of now, recreational marijuana use is only fully legal in three countries — Canada, Uruguay, and Georgia — plus nine U.S. states and Washington, D.C. It’s still very much illegal at the federal level, and when it comes to CBD the law is pretty murky. The FDA recently approved a purified form of CBD, but only to treat certain seizure disorders. There hasn’t been much research done on the health benefits — or safety — of THC or CBD in a recreational edibles context.
In our panel on cannabis edibles at the Smart Kitchen Summit last month, the speakers pointed out that shipping edibles is a tricky process: they aren’t allowed to cross state lines, even between two states in which marijuana sales are legal. It makes sense that mega-companies like Coca-Cola are hesitant to dip their toe into an industry that isn’t legal across their entire market, or even in Georgia, where their headquarters are based.
Things could change pretty quickly if the 2018 Farm Bill, which would legalize sales of hemp-derived CBD in all 50 states, passes. But no need to bug out: until then, if you want to sip on a CBD beverage you can seek it out at a dispensary (where legal) or order a 6-pack of Recess — which doesn’t seem to have run into the same issues as Dirty Lemon — online.