A newly-announced product in California gives us a hint at what Big Alcohol has planned for the cannabis space. "Hi-Fi Hops" is a soon-to-be-released beverage from Lagunitas Brewing Company, which is owned by beer giant Heineken International.
Described in a press release as an "IPA-inspired sparkling water," the legal-in-California drink will be offered in two dosage strengths. It has zero calories, zero carbohydrates and zero alcohol, relying instead on infused cannabis as an inebriant.
The idea of drinkable cannabis has caught the attention of the alcohol industry in a big way, and it's not hard to see why. Assuming consumers enjoy the feeling of a cannabis buzz as much as they enjoy a beer buzz, it's not hard to imagine shoppers choosing a zero-calorie alternative over a traditional brew.
Plus, the stigma against smoking means many people won't want to smoke or vape legal cannabis, but a liquid, cannabis-based intoxicant could be less threatening to cannabis novices (and very threatening to a company that only sells alcohol).
That business risk is why booze behemoth Constellation Brands guzzled down ten per cent of bud behemoth Canopy Growth last year, for example. Why fear competition from the marijuana industry when you can afford to just buy a piece?
More recently, BNN Bloomberg reported Molson Coors Brewing Co. is getting ready to buy into Canada's legal cannabis industry.
Cannabis-infused beverages are already available on the black market here in Canada, and various companies are working to create weed drinks that would comply with Canada's future regulations for cannabis edibles. (Remember, those regulations aren't expected until a year after legalization, so don't expect to sip on a commercially produced cannabis refreshment until October 2019.)
But when Canadians are finally able to crack open a cold can of legal marijuana, strict packaging regulations mean it probably won't look quite as snazzy as Lagunitas' product.
Plus, forget about buying any kind of hybrid cannabis-alcohol drink. The Cannabis Act forbids selling cannabis products mixed with alcohol, caffeine or nicotine.
But here's a safe bet: When cannabis-infused beverages become legal for commercial production in Canada, major alcohol companies will have a hand in producing them.
The question for those big breweries is, will consumers actually use those weed beverages as a replacement for alcohol? Or, will they be a niche product category sold in parallel to traditional beverages?
Time will tell — but by getting into the cannabis industry now, Big Alcohol is hedging its bets no matter what.
New on The Leaf
- For the children: If you want to see the federal government's cannabis public safety messaging, look where the kids are — on social media.
- Growing concern: This week's edition of Dear Herb features good news for Canadians with a licence to grow their own medical cannabis.
- First Nations take on province over cannabis sales: First Nations communities in Nova Scotia want to sell cannabis on their own terms.
Elsewhere on the Weed Wide Web
- Reconsidering the risk: Major insurers are taking another look at whether using cannabis should be considered a "high-risk" activity, reports Pete Evans for CBC News.
- B.C. bud's dominance at risk: Cannabis industry players in British Columbia say their provincial government is way behind the legalization curve, reports Matt Lamers for Marijuana Business Daily.
- Rethinking 'Your brain on drugs': The government is adjusting its approach to cannabis-related public health messaging. Will that make kids more likely to heed the message?