The high without the hangover – cannabis-infused Beverages

The second phase of cannabis legalization has arrived at the height of its anticipation. The prospect of THC and CBD in many new forms could create new cannabis consumers and satisfy the experienced user with the edibles and concentrates they’ve desired. But one form of cannabis is still greatly misunderstood from a scientific and social standpoint – cannabis beverages.

Drinks have always been ingrained in cultures. We share beverages with friends, by ourselves, to celebrate, to relax – but this has generally been soda or alcohol. Cannabis beverages were largely kept out of the mix, but Deloitte estimates that 35 per cent of likely cannabis consumers will see infused beverages as an alternative to alcohol. Why did it take so long to get to this point? The hurdle that kept beverages from being a viable option is rooted in the structures of cannabinoids like THC and CBD. These molecules aren’t soluble in water. Because of that, most attempts at making beverages had fussy globs of cannabis oil, poor taste, strange absorption, or the need to shake vigorously and consume quickly. All of the above problems don’t add to the positive experience.

The science

Innovations in technology have made these concerns a thing of the past and even improved the efficiency of cannabis in the body. The technology that did this is the nano-emulsion. Nano-emulsions encapsulate the molecules in micelles: incredibly small spheres that can be suspended in a drink and won’t separate or settle over time. These nano-emulsions are what we call, “thermodynamically stable”. Drinks using this technology won’t have any strange tastes, textures or smells either.

Where drinks using this technology have an advantage over an edible lie in their ability to be absorbed. Because nanospheres are water-soluble they can be absorbed more quickly. It takes around 10 to 15 minutes for the effects to be felt when drinking these products compared to 60 to 90 minutes for an edible. The bioavailable amount of active ingredients is also improved with drinks. Much more of the THC is absorbed and gets into the blood, hence why dosing may seem different with drinks. The regulations for beverages limit the THC content to 10mg per unit. To some, this may not seem like enough, but it will do the job. For a more social and lucid experience, many of the drinks will hover around 2.5mg of THC per can. Your buzz from beverages will last similarly to an edible in many cases, so the level of commitment is still something to be aware of. There will be alternatives with higher amounts of THC, but the best course of action is to start from square one with your beverage experience regardless of your history with edibles.

What we'll see

As for the different forms that will grace our shelves any day now, they can be divided up into two major camps: dry beverages and wet beverages. Dry beverages would include things like tea bags, K-cups, and crystals that could be added to drinks. Wet beverages would include soda, sparkling water and even distilled mixes. Mixes would be treated like a rum or vodka: a liquid that could be added to a cocktail or beverage to give it something special. Most of these products will have unique and appealing flavours as well as information of the strain of cannabis it was taken from.

The steps the cannabis industry has taken so far are certainly not going to be the last. The demand already exists for these products and it will make its move on alcohol very soon. The quick consistent and predictable highs will only get better and the highs without the hangovers will have millions of Canadians raising their glasses to Legalization 2.0.