People who drink alcohol typically learn the hard way how much is too much – usually in their teens or early 20s. As adults, they’re not 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 makers of cannabis-infused beverages, which are keen to participate in a category that researcher Canaccord Genuity Group 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 best-known partnership is Constellation Brands Inc.’s 38 percent 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 Quebec-based 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 wanted to be.
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