In my home state of Illinois, talks of recreational marijuana have increased since the election of our latest governor, J.B. Pritzker. Although the Illinois voters, legislature and governor will determine whether this becomes a reality, the states that already have legalized recreational marijuana are seeing the plant pop up in more food and beverage products.
In an October 2018 Business Insider feature titled “The market for marijuana-infused beverages could explode to $600 million in the next four years,” the business news outlet highlights the potential for this market. Citing a note from Canaccord Genuity, the article says that the financial firm is predicting that cannabidiol (CBD) beverages will become a $260 million market by 2022 and that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) beverages will become a $340 million market by 2022.
Beverage-makers in states where recreational marijuana is legalized are wasting no time helping this prediction become a reality. High Style Brewing Co. released Coastal Haze, an alcohol removed, cannabis-infused craft beer. Inspired by pale ale recipes, Coastal Haze is brewed using Cascade and Amarillo hops, it says. Each 12-ounce bottle also is infused with 10 mg of THC extract, the key psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, it adds.
“Selection of our THC extract was very important,” said Lyden Henderson, chief operating officer of High Style, in a statement. “A one- to two-hour delay from consumption to onset of effects was unacceptable to us. We believe that our consumers deserve a ‘self-regulating’ product, where they know by the time they finish their first High Style whether or not their individual tolerance will allow them to responsibly have another.”
High Style also plans to bring a version of Coastal Haze with 5 mg of THC and 5 mg of CBD (a non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant) this quarter, it says.
Beer manufacturers also are looking at another market to further cannabis infusions: medicinal.
Flying Dog Brewery partnered with Green Leaf Medical Cannabis to release a THC-infused beer. The non-alcohol IPA named Hop Chronic will serve as a medical delivery system to provide Maryland medical cannabis patients with therapeutic cannabinoids including CBD, CBG and THC without the patient having to smoke or vape the cannabis, it says. Subject to regulatory and legal approvals, the product will be released at dispensaries throughout Maryland.
“We see a lot of interest in cannabis from the craft beer community, and we jumped at the opportunity to partner with Green Leaf on a product that captures the passion and energy you see in fans of both craft beer and cannabis,” said Flying Dog Chief Marketing Officer Ben Savage, in a statement. “There are definitely similarities between the natural flavor profiles we extract from hops and the terpenes and cannabinoids found in cannabis.”
In the spirits category, Humboldt Distillery was an early adopter of cannabis infusion. In 2016, the microdistillery announced the release of Humboldt’s Finest, a vodka infused with cannabis sativa. The THC-free spirit has found success in Northern California and recently expanded to more than 100 Von, Pavilion and Albertson stores in Southern California.
Whether its CBD or THC, it seems clear that cannabis infusions have found a home in the beverage market.