Drinkable cannabis

Ma­jor com­pa­nies are work­ing to de­velop pot-in­fused bev­er­ages that of­fer steady high and act like al­co­hol.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Kris­tine Owram Owram writes for Bloomberg.

Ma­jor com­pa­nies are work­ing to de­velop pot-in­fused bev­er­ages that of­fer a steady high.

Peo­ple who drink al­co­hol typ­i­cally learn the hard way how much is too much — usu­ally in their teens or early 20s. As adults, they may not be in­ter­ested in learn­ing the same hard-knocks les­son about cannabis.

This is the chal­lenge for an in­dus­try seek­ing to win over new or in­ex­pe­ri­enced users as le­gal­iza­tion spreads through North Amer­ica and around the world. It’s a par­tic­u­larly daunt­ing one for cannabis-in­fused bev­er­age mak­ers, which are keen to par­tic­i­pate in a cat­e­gory that re­searcher Canac­cord Ge­nu­ity Group Inc. ex­pects will be worth $600 mil­lion in the U.S. by 2022.

That mar­ket potential has at­tracted sev­eral big al­co­hol com­pa­nies that are seek­ing to off­set de­clin­ing beer con­sump­tion with the next big thing. The best­known part­ner­ship is Con­stel­la­tion Brands Inc.’s 38% stake in Canopy Growth Corp., the largest cannabis firm by mar­ket value, for which it paid about $4 bil­lion. Bud­weiser brewer An­heuser-Busch InBev formed a re­search part­ner­ship with Til­ray Inc., with each com­pany in­vest­ing up to $50 mil­lion in the ven­ture, and Mol­son Coors Brew­ing Co. has teamed up with Que­becbased Hexo Corp.

All these com­pa­nies are work­ing to de­velop con­sumer-friendly cannabis drinks that can com­pete with al­co­hol, but there’s one prob­lem: Pot is noth­ing like booze.

Al­co­hol is wa­ter-sol­u­ble and cannabis is not, mean­ing al­co­hol is ab­sorbed into the blood­stream quickly, whereas pot ed­i­bles and bev­er­ages are me­tab­o­lized much later in the di­ges­tive process. This leads to the clas­sic ed­i­ble ef­fect, when in­ex­pe­ri­enced users con­sume a weed bon­bon, feel noth­ing, have a sec­ond, and then find an hour later that they’re far higher than they ex­pected.

The prob­lem of on­set time (and the re­lated prob­lem of how long the ef­fect takes to wear off) is one of the big­gest chal­lenges fac­ing mak­ers of cannabis bev­er­ages and may be one of the rea­sons the prod­ucts cur­rently make up a tiny por­tion of the over­all le­gal pot mar­ket — less than 0.5% of to­tal U.S. sales, ac­cord­ing to BDS An­a­lyt­ics.

Many in the in­dus­try be­lieve that the key to main­stream ac­cep­tance is cre­at­ing a “ses­sion­able” bev­er­age in which a per­son can have two or three drinks over a few hours, per­haps with friends drink­ing al­co­hol, while en­joy­ing a steady, mod­er­ate high.

“We think on­set time is go­ing to be one of the crit­i­cal fac­tors in the next stage of cannabis-in­fused bev­er­ages, and the in­vest­ments be­ing made by con­sumer pack­aged goods com­pa­nies and by big al­co­hol are go­ing to dra­mat­i­cally move that nee­dle,” said John Ka­gia, chief knowl­edge of­fi­cer at New Fron­tier Data, a Wash­ing­ton cannabis re­search firm.

Mak­ing cannabis com­pounds wa­ter sol­u­ble so they act more like al­co­hol will be key to im­prov­ing on­set time, but most in the in­dus­try agree there is no tech­no­log­i­cal magic bul­let.

“We’re not bet­ting on one horse,” Canopy Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Bruce Lin­ton said. The Canada-based com­pany is ex­per­i­ment­ing with ways to improve on­set time and taste in cannabis-in­fused bev­er­ages, but be­lieves there’s no “per­fect an­swer.”

“The tech­ni­cal steps are half the bat­tle, and then there’s who wants what, when, where and why,” in­clud­ing de­ci­sions such as bot­tles or cans, size, color, brand and taste, Lin­ton said.

To solve the prob­lem of on­set time, many com­pa­nies are ex­per­i­ment­ing with nano-emul­si­fi­ca­tion, which uses a blend­ing agent that at­taches to the cannabis mol­e­cules, en­abling them to bet­ter mix with wa­ter. Done cor­rectly, the process should al­low the ac­tive in­gre­di­ents to evenly dis­perse in the bev­er­age and ab­sorb into the blood­stream much faster than if they’re di­gested.

This is the process used by San Diego-based Cannabiniers, a bev­er­age, tech­nol­ogy and brand man­age­ment com­pany that owns Two Roots Brew­ing Co., which makes non­al­co­holic, cannabis-in­fused beer. Cannabiniers said it has achieved a 10-minute on­set time with its prod­ucts, and that they wear off in about 90 min­utes.

“We re­ally do em­u­late the bell curve of con­sump­tion for tra­di­tional al­co­hol prod­ucts in that we do have a rapid on­set and quick off­set,” said Kevin Love, vice pres­i­dent of mar­ket ac­ti­va­tions. “It takes a brave per­son to make that jump.”

Prov­ince Brands of Canada is tak­ing a dif­fer­ent ap­proach — re­plac­ing barley and brew­ing beer di­rectly from the stalks, stems and roots of the cannabis plant.

Trait Bio­sciences Inc., mean­while, is us­ing gly­co­sy­la­tion, which mim­ics what the body does when it me­tab­o­lizes cannabis by at­tach­ing a glu­cose mol­e­cule to the sub­stance.

This patent-pend­ing tech­nol­ogy, cur­rently be­ing tested on hu­mans in clin­i­cal tri­als in Is­rael, im­proves on­set time and avoids the “salad dress­ing ef­fect,” in which the oily cannabis com­pounds sep­a­rate from wa­ter, said Ro­nan Levy, chief strat­egy of­fi­cer at Trait. The com­pany has also filed a patent for a sec­ond process that binds the cannabis com­pounds to wa­ter-sol­u­ble pro­teins rather than glu­cose mol­e­cules.

Levy is op­ti­mistic about the mar­ket potential for cannabis bev­er­ages, but ac­knowl­edges it’s still early days for the in­dus­try. “There’s a strong sen­ti­ment that bev­er­ages are prob­a­bly go­ing to be­come the lead­ing mech­a­nism for in­ges­tion,” Levy said. “They just haven’t yet be­cause the truth is that most prod­ucts out there are kind of ter­ri­ble.”

The rig­or­ous re­stric­tions on pot re­search in the U.S. don’t help. Be­cause the plant re­mains il­le­gal at the fed­eral level, re­searchers must ap­ply to the Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion to get a li­cense and se­cure a le­gal sup­ply, most of which comes from a 10-acre farm at the Univer­sity of Mis­sis­sippi. Even in Canada, which le­gal­ized recre­ational mar­i­juana use in Oc­to­ber, ed­i­bles and bev­er­ages won’t be avail­able un­til later this year at the soon­est.

“Given that cannabis has been il­le­gal for much of the past cen­tury, you’re see­ing the in­dus­try now mak­ing up for al­most a cen­tury’s worth of in­no­va­tion and in­vest­ment in a two- to five-year pe­riod,” said Ka­gia at New Fron­tier Data. “We would ar­gue that we’ve still barely scratched the tip of the ice­berg around where prod­uct in­no­va­tion in cannabis is go­ing.”

But progress should hap­pen quickly now that big al­co­hol com­pa­nies are in­vest­ing significant time, money and re­sources into re­search, said Spiros Ma­lan­drakis, head of al­co­holic drinks at mar­ket-re­search firm Euromon­i­tor In­ter­na­tional.

“With the knowhow that these com­pa­nies have al­ready in cre­at­ing all kinds of bev­er­ages, I hon­estly have lit­tle doubt that these kind of prod­ucts will be upon us and the on­set ef­fect will be re­solved by the end of this year,” he said.

Cannabiniers / Two Roots Brew­ing Co.

TWO ROOTS Brew­ing Co., owned by San Diego firm Cannabiniers, sells a cannabis-in­fused beer at ReLeaf Dis­pen­sary in Las Ve­gas.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.