By Amanda Chicago Lewis / Illustrations by Party of One / Photography by Silvia Razgova
2019, and Big Alcohol wants in on legal pot — but only on its own terms. One by one, the largest beer companies in the world have announced their intention to create drinkable marijuana products. So brace yourself for an onslaught of alcohol-free weed beers and weed seltzers and weed fruit punches.
There’s only one problem: no one really wants or likes cannabis beverages. In legal adult-use marijuana markets, infused beverages make up a mere 2 to 3 percent of total sales. But the alcohol industry really and truly believes it can convince us that we want to consume weed the same way we consume alcohol, gulp by gulp. Molson Coors CEO Mark Hunter has said drinks could soon make up 20 to 30 percent of cannabis sales. That’s right: he thinks he can increase demand for marijuana beverages by a factor of 10.
Last year, Molson Coors took a controlling stake in a joint venture with a licensed pot producer in Canada called HEXO. Anheuser-Busch InBev put $50 million toward a similar joint venture with the British Columbia-based Tilray. Heineken-owned Lagunitas already sells a hop-flavored, pot-infused sparkling water at California marijuana dispensaries, in partnership with Sonoma’s CannaCraft. And Constellation Brands, which includes Corona and Modelo, threw down nearly $4 billion — the biggest investment in the history of weed — on a 38 percent stake in the largest Canadian marijuana producer, Canopy Growth.
Full disclosure: I’ve always found drinks to be the worst kind of marijuana edible. Even if you find one that doesn’t taste like bong water, the absent-minded ease of sipping almost guarantees you’ll have too much, and the delayed intensity that’s left so many people wary of edible weed means that it could hit you all at once, two hours later. Unless, of course, it’s a low-dose product, and then you might have too little. I’ve been smoking about a joint a night for the past decade or so, and I need 25–30 milligrams of THC to get high. Most pot drinks are aimed either at serious, all-day stoners, with 100 milligrams of THC per bottle, or at entry-level lightweights, with 2.5 milligrams of THC per bottle. I love weed, but I don’t want to stop myself after a third of an iced tea, and I don’t want to have to down 10 iced teas. Marijuana tolerance varies far more than alcohol tolerance, and that makes it much harder to create shareable, standardized products.
As it exists now, the whole cannabis beverage category is a mess. Even if you can get the dosage and the taste and the onset timing correct, being high doesn’t feel the same as being drunk. Why should we try to force marijuana to mimic the experience of alcohol? Are the makers of Blue Moon and Stella Artois hoping that, 10 years from now, bars and ball games will offer both a weed beer and regular beer?
Published: July 30, 2019