There’s been a lot of coverage as of late about the legalization of marijuana in different states. Most of the news has been about the traditional smoking variety, and also about edibles. But one area that hasn’t gotten too much coverage is marijuana-infused beverages. But that might be about to change.
The second half of 2015 into 2016 could see several brands introduce cannabis-based drinks, and, over time, these could carve out a substantial new beverage category.
As of now, of course, with legal adult use of marijuana limited to just four states (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington) and the District of Columbia, the cannabis beverage industry is also quite limited in its distribution. “The way that the market is right now every state has a different regulatory framework which means every state has a different set of licensees and there’s no interstate commerce allowed,” says Leslie Bocskor, managing partner at the marijuana industry consulting firm Electrum Partners. “So each state is like its own market and has its own leader.”
But most experts believe legal usage will spread to many more states in the very near future, providing the potential for strong growth of this category. And meanwhile, in the states where it is already legal, the demand is there, and potentially great, for this new category of drinks. “We’re seeing more cannabis-infused beverages on the market than there used to be,” says Kris Krane, managing partner at 4Front Ventures, which is working to professionalize the marijuana industry. He says they range from everything from coffees and teas to fruit punch. One of the most popular is Dixie Elixirs, which markets a THC-infused bottled drink that comes in lemonade and iced tea.
For this column I did a lot of research (not of the kind you’re probably thinking). Nevertheless, I did learn from Michael Christopher, founder of Loft Tea, a marketer of cannabis-infused drinks, that cannabis has over 108 active compounds that have been found to be beneficial to the human body. THC is the most popular, more common compound that gives many users that “high,” euphoric sensation upon consumption. That’s the one only legal in select states through dispensary operations and retail sales.
But there are other equally as important compounds, like CBD, or cannabidiol, found in cannabis that has no psychoactive qualities, Christopher explained to me, and has been used to potentially treat a varying list of ailments from anxiety reduction to epilepsy in children. “While we cannot speak directly to medical implications, we find that this compound is perfect for a health focused, non-euphoric tea beverage,” says Christopher, who is launching this fall a line of CBD hemp infusion drinks to be sold in all 50 states, and then plans to follow them by the winter with THC/cannabis formulation versions to be sold in select legal dispensaries in Colorado, California and Nevada.
As you would imagine, Christopher is very optimistic about the category’s potential. “As far as user adoption, I think within the next decade, cannabis beverages will be the catalyst to mass appeal for cannabis products and the industry as a whole,” he says. “The delivery method of cannabis infused beverages and edibles is odor-free, portable and discreet; and its dosing is easier to standardize, which increases product efficacy and improves the user experience.”