Everything You Need to Know About THC Beverages

THC Beverages' claim to fame kicked off in 2018. While there may be a prelude, the 2018 Farm Bill set things in motion that gave rise to the explosive growth we’re now seeing in the THC beverage market.

The Farm Bill played a crucial role in creating a legal framework for the production and sale of hemp-derived THC products in beverages. It legalized hemp-derived THC-infused beverages, such as infused water, tea, coffee, and soft drinks, and allowed for transportation across state lines.

In 2020, cannabis-infused beverages saw their first inflection point. With Covid on the rise, people were locked in their homes and hesitant to put any extra strain on their lungs, which made them turn to cannabeverages.

In particular, since shoppers wanted to feel a high and quickly, they turned to 100 mg cannabeverages. Since these beverages are water-soluble (unlike edibles), they were able to give consumers a solid high with a quick onset.

While Covid gave some good momentum, it wasn’t until 2022 that the cannabeverage industry started to see the second inflection point - the introduction of Minnesota’s new cannabeverage paradigm.

Why Minnesota’s THC Drink Market Became So Popular

On July 1, 2022, the cannabis industry in Minnesota changed forever. On that day, the Minnesota State Legislature did something pretty wild – they actually passed a law that gave the green light to selling stuff with THC in it. Statute 151.72 passed without a single "yay" or "nay" in the GOP-controlled Senate: no debates, no arguments, just a unanimous thumbs up.

Republican Sen. Jim Abeler joked

“That doesn’t legalize marijuana… we didn’t just do that, did we?”

It didn’t, then, but it blasted the doors wide open for Minnesota to create the first scalable, profitable, and successful blueprint for how cannabeverages can integrate into people’s everyday lives… and it opened up the door to Minnesota becoming the 23rd state to legalize recreational cannabis a year later.

Aside from the “oopsie”, what makes Minnesota’s market so unique?
One word: Access.

In Minnesota, people 21 and older can get cannabeverages at over 3,000 locations throughout the state. That number is growing.

While breweries were the first to act, pumping out THC seltzers and selling them in taprooms for people to take home, the variety of establishments people can buy cannabeverages at is what makes Minnesota unique.

Whether it’s a bar, liquor store, grocery store, hair salon, chiropractor office, or from your mom (assuming she’s registered with the state), people can get these beverages all over - they can even get them delivered.

Are There Different Types of THC Beverages?

Yes - with new kinds of drinks popping up regularly

THC-Infused Seltzers and Social Tonics

The largest category of THC beverages, seltzers, and social tonics are non-alcoholic, drinkable cannabis. They’re bubbly, refreshing, and sociable but don’t come with a hangover.

THC-Infused Sodas and Soft Drinks

The second largest category of THC beverages, sodas, tend to be flavorful, sweet, and more often than not, mask any taste of cannabis. They’re delicious. Just make sure you check the sugar content if you’re health conscious.

THC-Infused Energy Drinks

Similar to regular energy drinks but with THC added, these are targeted at consumers looking for an extra boost along with the effects of THC. These will quite literally give you a runner’s high.

THC-Infused Cocktails and Mocktails

These are non-alcoholic versions of popular cocktails infused with THC. They cater to consumers who enjoy the social aspect of drinking but want to avoid the booze.

THC-Infused Beverage Enhancers

Beverage enhancers allow consumers to turn any drink into a THC drink. Unlike beverages, beverage enhancers don’t come in a can or live on the same shelf. They are normally smaller, more discrete, portable, and come in liquid, powder, or tablet form.

THC-Infused Teas and Coffees

For tea and coffee lovers, these beverages tend to combine caffeine and THC. Cold brews, Arnold Palmers, Iced Teas, Kombuchas, etc.

THC-Infused Teas and Coffees

Small, concentrated THC beverages designed for a quick and potent consumption experience. Like a 5-hour energy container, but with THC instead of caffeine.

How Are THC Beverages Made?

Creating hemp-derived THC drinks involves several key steps, from sourcing the ingredients to the final packaging. Here's a general overview of the process:

1.  Sourcing Quality Hemp:

The process begins with sourcing high-quality hemp plants that have a THC content of 0.3% or less, which is the legal threshold for hemp. The plants should be grown under regulated conditions to ensure purity and quality.

2.  Extraction of THC:

The next step is extracting Delta-9 THC from the harvested hemp. This is typically done using methods like CO2 extraction, which is efficient and maintains the purity of the THC. The extracted THC is often in the form of an oil or concentrate.

3.  Formulation:

The THC extract is then formulated into a beverage. This involves deciding the concentration of THC per serving and ensuring it is evenly distributed throughout the batch. The formulation process also includes the addition of other ingredients like flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives, depending on the type of beverage being produced.

4.  Emulsification:

THC oil is not naturally water-soluble, which poses a challenge for creating a beverage. To overcome this, the THC oil is emulsified. Emulsification is a process that breaks down the oil into tiny particles that can be evenly dispersed throughout the liquid, ensuring consistency in every sip.

5.  Quality Control and Testing:

After emulsification, the beverage undergoes rigorous quality control and testing. This ensures that the THC concentration is within legal and desired limits and that the product is safe for consumption. It also involves testing for the presence of any contaminants.

6.  Packaging:

Once approved, the beverage is packaged. This can be in bottles, cans, or other suitable containers. The packaging process must also adhere to any legal requirements for labeling, including THC content, ingredients, and consumption warnings.

7.  Compliance with Regulations:

Throughout the manufacturing process, compliance with local and federal regulations is crucial. This includes ensuring that the THC content is within legal limits and that the product is marketed and labeled according to the laws governing hemp-derived products.

How Long Do THC Beverages Take to Kick In?

One of the biggest benefits of THC drinks is that there is a quick, positive feedback loop. Consumers can expect to feel the THC kick in after 10 to 15 minutes, unlike edibles, which can take more than an hour to kick in. On top of that, THC in beverage form comes on slow and smooth, whereas an edible or smoking can kick in all at once

In total, a single THC drink lasts about 90 minutes, which makes it easier to pace yourself and stack your beverages until you’re in the place you want to be. This helps consumers ease into the experience without having to worry about a 4-6 hour-long high. This gives consumers control.

How Do THC Drinks Compare to Alcohol?

One of the most common teaching moments for those newer to THC drinks is finding the right dosage and comparing THC effects to the effects of alcohol. To note, every person has a different tolerance. A 2.5 mg beverage might be more than enough for those getting started, but might not be noticeable for a seasoned THC beverage drinker.

However, there are some benchmarks and anchor points people can reference.

In general, a microdose of THC tends to fall between 2-5 mg per serving. A microdose is the equivalent of 3-5% alcohol, meaning it ‘feels’ like having a light beer.

For a higher dose, from 6-10 mg THC, an IPA may be an apt comparison.

*To note, Minnesota has a cap of 10 mg THC per drink, but other states have higher caps.

20-25 mg THC or higher is best for experienced consumers. For comparison, 20-25 mg THC is equivalent to drinking a bottle of wine.

If you were to double the dosage to 50 mg, that would be comparable to a bottle of liqueur around 25% alcohol.

If you were to venture into the land of 100 mg drinks, an appropriate comparison would be as strong as 80-proof vodka.

If you find a 200 mg THC beverage, run. Kidding, but be prepared and know the impact it can have on your senses.

Who Drinks THC Beverages?

What makes the THC beverage category so exciting is the wide variety of consumers, from all walks of life. If you’re 21 and over, you’re legally allowed to have a THC beverage. THC beverages are less of a replacement for a joint than they are for beer, wine, or alcohol in general. They are a new way of drinking. A way of drinking free of hangovers.

So who drinks THC beverages?

The strongest segment we see for THC beverages are millennials - particularly millennial women, who made up close to 30% of THC beverage sales in 2022. However, their male counterparts were not far behind. In general, the parity between age demographics is what stands out. Gen Z and Boomers are not far behind Millennials with their THC beverage consumption. There is a shift in consumer preference away from alcoholic beverages and towards cannabis - particularly in beverage form, as access continues to improve.



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