- Cannabis drinks make up 5% of the edibles industry and counting.
- Water-soluble beverages absorb into the bloodstream faster than traditional edibles.
- Many companies are offering low-dose weed tonics for a buzz akin to wine or beer.
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In a world where people socialize around beverages, replacing your beer with a weed gummy isn't going to cut it in certain situations.
Popping a piece of candy doesn't exactly have the same ring to it as cracking a cold one. And cannabis edibles are usually dosed at around five to 10 milligrams of THC, the psychoactive component in weed. That amount could leave some consumers feeling overwhelmed or couch-locked.
As cannabis grows in popularity and more Americans are considering cutting back on booze, the founders of Cann seltzer wanted to create a weed drink that people could easily incorporate into their social lives: a carbonated "social tonic" dosed at 2 mg THC and 4 mg CBD.
The addition of CBD, a non-intoxicating cannabinoid, is meant to "round out the experience, so instead of a spike it's more of a plateau," Cann cofounder Jake Bullock told Insider. The compound blocks some of THC's intoxicating effects for a milder high.
"What we did is we took the dosing way down, and that unlocked the social potential of the product," Bullock said. "If you really think about what makes a glass of wine or coffee social, you drink it and it doesn't totally incapacitate you."
While Bullock and cofounder Luke Anderson are chasing a canna-buzz, other weed beverage creators like Dixie have infused "elixirs" at higher doses — like the vodka to Cann's spiked seltzer. Cannabis cold brew and weed-filled wine are also on the menu, and the industry is just taking off.
Weed drinks kick in quicker and more consistently than edibles
If you've ever had a bad experience with a pot brownie, you know edibles can be unpredictable.
Typically, edibles are metabolized in the liver, which turns THC into a more potent compound called 11-hydroxy-THC. The process takes some time, so edibles are known to kick in 30 minutes to two hours after ingestion.
Cannabis beverages, on the other hand, start to kick in the moment they touch your tongue. When you take cannabis as a water-soluble liquid, THC absorbs into your bloodstream through the tissue of your mouth, esophagus, and stomach.
The result is a quicker onset, so you won't be left wondering "am I high yet?" and preemptively upping your dosage.
"If anyone asks us, 'How high does this get me?' — it's the strength of light beer or glass of wine, but instead of getting drunk, you are high," Anderson said. "And for how many you should have, check in with yourself, just like you do when you're out drinking."
He added that a first-timer could have one or two Canns and "feel great," while a more experienced user might opt for three to five over the course of a night. Since it's a microdose, consumers can feel the buzz wear off a bit before they decide to grab another drink.
Low-dose social seltzers and stronger 'elixirs'
Beverages only make up about 5% of the cannabis edibles industry, according to BDS Analytics, a cannabis market insights firm. But the overall edibles market is growing, Kelly Nielsen, VP of insight and analytics, told Insider — and if the success of companies like Cann is any indication, the "drinkables" sector will continue to expand as well.
Up-and-coming pot drinks run the gamut, from a new generation of spiked seltzers to dissolvable drink packets that you can use to spice up a cocktail.
While some companies sell stronger brews, most beverage brands are coming out with low-dose products, and many combine THC and CBD for a more balanced experience.
"They're coming into the market with lower-dose types of products," Nielsen told Insider. "Even Keef Cola started at 100 milligrams [of THC] per container, so you almost had to take shots of it rather than enjoy a whole beverage."
Nowadays, Keef is down to 10 milligrams a can (still a strong dose by most standards), and beverage packets Stillwater and purejuana range from 2.5 mg to 10 mg a dose. With various doses to choose from, consumers can focus on finding a tasty drink to sip on.
"It kind of goes without saying that taste is a driver," Nielsen said. "But if you're only going to have to take one bite of a mint or one gummy, you probably have a little bit more leeway with that taste and flavor than you do with a beverage that is designed to be consumed over time."