When it comes to inebriating drinks, the story of alcohol is about as old as humanity itself, which is why the prospect of cannabis (read: THC) infused drinks has the entire industry perking up their ears at a new opportunity.
In 2018, the market for cannabis-infused beverages was estimated to be about $89M USD. Not bad, but when you consider that even small alcohol brands are routinely snapped up for hundreds-of-millions it can seem like small potatoes. But here’s the thing: by 2023 – just 4 years from now – it’s estimated that the THC-infused beverage market will top $1.4 BILLION. That’s right, billion with a ‘b’. So it’s no wonder that everyone from upstarts to the big names of liquor distributing are trying to put themselves in a position to get a piece of that pie.
A wide variety of producers are infusing CBD and THC into all sorts of beverages; including tea, soda, cider, pre-mixed drinks like pina coladas and even wine. The drinks come in a range of concentrations, from small ‘micro’ doses of 2.5 milligrams of THC per container (like a light beer) to high-potency doses of 100 mg per container (your hard liquor). One of the still-developing aspects of this market is whether it will work in tandem with the alcohol industry, or as a separate market. This stems from the fact that it increasingly seems like these beverages will contain either THC or alcohol, but not both. What this opens up is the notion that THC-infused drinks are a health and wellness product, an anti-alcohol, if you will.
For now, the investment in the industry seems to be mainly small players and – in terms of the market as a whole – paltry amounts of money. This is mostly because although more and more States are legalizing cannabis, it remains (and likely will remain for the foreseeable future) a Schedule 1 substance in the eyes of the Federal Government. Small players and lower stakes keep Uncle Sam at bay, but the big players are circling, trying to figure out how to get a foothold without pissing off the Feds. But for an idea of how things might play out, the U.S. has to only look north to Canada, where cannabis is Federally legal and where brewing giant Molson has just announced they will be selling THC-infused drinks the day it becomes legal this fall.