Canna-brews have yet to explode as a full-fledged drinking trend, but it’s well on its way. On August 21, Cannabiniers, a beer and brand management company, celebrated the first sale of Two Roots Brewing Co, a line of non-alcoholic cannabinoid-infused craft beers in Nevada.
Two Roots’ microdosed brews are designed to emulate the rapid onset of alcohol. It’s even supposed to dissipate from the body quickly, too. But instead of having an alcohol buzz, you get stoned. “Our product development team, alongside our artisan brewers, approached this with the full understanding that Two Roots represents a new class of adult beverage,” said Kevin Love, director of Two Roots’ product development, in a statement.
Alcohol and Cannabis: Friends or Foes?
Although the alcohol industry is wary of the impact legal cannabis will have on sales, the burgeoning trend of THC-infused beers suggests the two industries don’t have to be foes. And some alcohol corporations are taking the “can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach. Over the last year, Constellation Brands (who produce brands such as Corona beer and Meoimi wine) invested in Canopy Growth, a major Canadian medical cannabis company. Their most recent contribution to Canopy Growth—completed in mid-August—was for $4 billion.
Molson Coors also announced a joint venture with Canadian cannabis producer, The Hydropothecary Corporation, to create cannabis-infused beverages for the Canadian market following legalization.
Coalition Brewing, an Oregon-based craft brewery, started marketing a CBD beer called Two Flowers IPA in late 2016. Brands such as Ceria Beverages—co-founded by Keith Villa of Blue Moon Brewing Company—have also removed the alcohol from their beers and replaced it with THC. Additionally, Heineken released a THC-infused sparkling water called Hi-Fi Hops in California through the Lagunitas Brewing Company brand.
Two Roots Brewing Co. and Ceria Beverages are not alcohol manufacturers, though. This makes them attractive to established alcohol brands because they don’t have to grapple with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. In other words: They don’t have to get alcoholic formulations approved and certified. Heineken and brands of the like, for instance, must go through that process. That’s why Hi-Fi hop-water uses Lagunitas’ branding, despite uniting with CannaCraft, a cannabis producer and distributor, to add the THC and sell the beverage.
“When cannabis becomes federally legal in the US, companies like Constellation Brands, Heineken, and Molson Coors will be big players in the infused beverage category,” said Jamie Evans, founder of The Herb Somm. Like Heineken, she explains, these companies will already have a solid reputation. Plus, they have a massive distribution, which Evans says will yield big profits. “The Lagunitas and the AbsoluteXtracts collaboration is an excellent example of how the [alcohol and cannabis] industries can work together.”
Regardless of short-term profit (or lack thereof), Evans believes it’s a good idea for alcohol companies to jump into the cannabis space. One reason, she contends, is because there’s new support for federal legalization from alcohol industry trade groups and manufacturers.
“The Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America, one of the largest trade groups in the alcohol industry that monitors regulations, announced publicly that they support cannabis legalization on the federal level,” Evans told High Times. “The more support [the cannabis industry] can get from other powerful trade groups and interested industries, the closer we get to federal legalization.”
So what’s the take away from all of this? Cannabis and alcohol are inevitably going to merge– and there’s potential for a symbiotic relationship. “Cannabis and alcohol don’t have to be rivals,” says Evans. “There are a lot of collaboration opportunities that can benefit both industries and consumers.”