Okay, so we’re way better about segregation where it matters (though lets be honest, not good enough). Luckily, what I’m writing about has a much smaller and less important social connotation; while still bringing up questions about the wonky regulations that exist in different markets. When it comes to that which makes us feel warm and fuzzy, as it turns out, our two favorite go to solutions – THC and alcohol – are not allowed in the same product. Read on to find out more.
THC or Alcohol, what we do to feel good
I’ve written plenty about the dangers of alcohol, but realistically, it’s a huge part of culture, and one which provides a certain amount of positive benefit when used correctly. Maybe not for health, but who hasn’t been on a date that went better because of that dry bottle of wine? Sometimes we need a little extra something in life, and often, that extra something comes with a proof attached.
Of course, some people choose not to drink alcohol. Whether it’s the raging hangovers the next day, the hole burned in the pocket, or the crazy antics that must be explained, some people live their lives without ever needing a bottle opener (unless its for something sugary and fizzy). It might not be the majority by any means, but some people don’t even like the feeling of the alcohol in their system. And that’s fine.
For many people, there’s an alternative to drinking, in smoking weed. Some prefer a nice fat blunt to a glass of whiskey; or some nice, pure vape hits over a thick, cold beer. There might not be an official rule here, but a lot of the time you find a non-drinker, that non-drinker is an active pot-head, or vice versa. And some people like both, but prefer to do them separately; taking advantage of each in the correct setting.
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Some of us like to use them together though. Admittedly, when you’ve drank too much, adding in a little weed is a great way to make the room uncomfortably spin, and some people will never mix the two because of this. For the rest of us that enjoy both, however, it’s often nice to have a joint in one hand, and a beer in the other. In fact, for some, it’s a wining combination. Only, for weird legal reasons never explained clearly, it’s a winning combination that doesn’t exist in any product.
What? No THC and alcohol together? Blasphemy!
First thing to remember is that according to the US federal government, weed isn’t legal anyway, so expecting the government to be cool with any cannabis product in an alcoholic drink, is shortsighted at best. If you’re wondering why CBD can’t be in an alcoholic beverage either, the reason is because the Farm Bill of 2018 which legalized industrial hemp, only did that. It legalized industrial hemp. Hemp products for internal use are still governed by the FDA, which never made any allowance for CBD in food products.
All of this is expected, right? But what about the individual states that passed legalization measures. They’re already breaking with federal mandate by allowing legal weed, right? So its not like they have to care about the idea of allowing THC with alcohol, right? Though it seems like this shouldn’t be an issue, it actually kind of is; and this is representative of yet more weirdness in the regulation of cannabis.
THC and alcohol go together for so many people. Yet the governments passing legalization measures aren’t in agreement. As an example, in early 2018, before Massachusetts officially opened its cannabis market, this advisory came out by the government, specifically stating that “Cannabinoid extract from the cannabis plant is considered a Schedule 1 drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency. Infusing or otherwise adding cannabinoid extract in alcoholic beverages is considered adulteration of alcohol under M.G.L. c. 270, § 1.”
And that “it will remain unlawful to manufacture and/or sell alcoholic beverages containing any cannabinoid extracts, including tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”) and cannabidiol (“CBD”), regardless of whether it is derived from the cannabis plant or industrial hemp.”
In California, an industry advisory put out in 2021 makes clear that THC and alcohol can’t even be sold in the same establishment. Obviously, if they can’t be in the same place, a product therefore can’t contain both. Under the ABC Act (Alcoholic Beverage Control), no cannabis product can be given out or sold in an establishment with an ABC license.
Oregon has it too. In 2019, the state’s Liquor Control Commission stated that “beer and other alcoholic drinks as of Jan. 1 may not contain either THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, or CBD, the non-psychoactive part that is said to relieve stress and pain.” The same stipulation was made in Washington even earlier, with spokesperson for the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, Mikhail Carpenter saying, “You cannot have a THC-infused beer with alcohol in it — it’s illegal in the state.”
Michigan isn’t any different. In 2018, Governor Rick Snyder signed a law that prohibits both the sale and possession of alcoholic drinks infused with any part of the cannabis plant. This was reiterated in 2020 upon the state legalizing the use of cannabis in infused drinks.
It doesn’t even require a recreational legalization to make the point. Iowa has done no such thing, yet made sure to point out in 2022 regulations, that “THC is considered a schedule I substance and is illegal in Iowa,” and that “CBD is only legal under the Medical Cannabidiol Act.” As such, “THC and CBD are prohibited in alcoholic beverages sold by license/permit holders in the state.”
This trend holds in Canada as well. In 2018, draft rules came out stating alcohol was banned from all cannabis products. In subsequent regulation, it makes the stipulation that ethyl alcohol used for the purposes of a cannabis tincture, is okay, so long as its no more than “0.5% w/w of the edible cannabis.”
Aren’t there tons of cannabis drinks?
Sometimes the press and marketing worlds can make things confusing. Just because products come out infused with THC (or some part of the cannabis plant), it doesn’t necessarily make them ‘wine’ or ‘beer’, even if those words are used in the description. The current fad in motion, is to offer cannabis infused drinks in place of alcohol drinks, not infused with alcohol. However, if you read ads or articles for these products, this point is not always immediately clear.
It’s hard to know exactly how big each sector of the cannabis market is. Realistically, so much functions outside of legal markets, that its hard to know how right-on official statistic are, anyway. Cannabis drinks are a newer item, debuting only in the last few years. According to an August 2022 article from Bloomberg, for one cannabis supplier LeafLink, which also deals in infused drinks, less than 1% of its sales were for drinks. But the article did go on to say that this particular company did see an approximately 5% increase month-over-month in 2021 and 2022 for drink sales.
Some states are seeing a noticeable uptick in these sales. The market for cannabis beverages grew a massive 247% in just the second quarter of 2022, from the previous year, in Michigan. According to Headset, a data and analytics company in the cannabis space, that equaled about $2.2 million in sales. Not the massive groundbreaking number that might be expected, but a decent start considering these products didn’t exist a few years ago.
Does this mean these products are direct competition for alcohol? Probably not. Just because cannabis is now found in beverage form, it doesn’t mean all those alcohol-lovers are going to substitute one for the other. If people choose to drink alcohol over smoking a joint, they’re probably going to choose to drink alcohol over a cannabis beverage as well. On the other hand, there is evidence to believe that cannabis might instigate a person to drink less, and in this vein, having them separate could be very beneficial.
While alcohol is certainly a substance that causes a lot of damage, both in users, and who those users hit on roadways; it still seems strange to me that this combination of THC and alcohol, doesn’t formally exist, (or at least not in a big or lasting way). I can only imagine that as regulations change and loosen, we actually will see some cannabis-infused alcohol products. Vendors like to make money, and if it’s what people want, eventually it’ll be here.
Cannabis infused drinks might stick around for a bit, but I’m guessing they’re nothing more than a fad. Perhaps if regulation changes, and THC and alcohol do start going together, then there might be more staying power. For now, no government seems to want this, and this segregation (whether you agree with it or not) stands as just another measure of incoherent regulation.
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