When one takes a trip to the liquor store, they can expect plenty of alcoholic beverages to purchase whether it’s just a normal beer or something a little fancier. But there is another type of beverage that has been making its way onto store shelves throughout various parts of the country only to then fly right off the shelves, THC beverages.

As the name would suggest, these drinks contain Tetrahydrocannabinol rather than cannabidiol, meaning that they are hemp-derived instead of full-strength cannabis. For those who may be unaware, hemp was declassified as a Schedule I drug as part of the 2018 Farm Bill due to it only containing 0.3% of THC and making THC beverages more accessible to the average consumer as a result.

Photo by VaporVanity.com/ CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by VaporVanity.com/ CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

As the stigma around recreational marijuana continues to be reduced with more and more states legalizing recreational and medical marijuana, interest in marijuana-related products has been on the rise with patrons looking for beverages that will help them sleep better, help them ease aches, and just help them relax after a long day.

But the hurdle that many are overlooking for THC beverages and marijuana products to find mainstream success, is that these products not only have to be legal but also be available at locations beyond your traditional dispensary where it’s easier for the average consumer to shop. A process that is slowly starting to take shape, most notably in Minnesota of all places.

Minnesota has ended up becoming patient zero for sales of THC beverages with the industry keeping a close eye on the twin cities due to Minnesota having some of the most relaxed laws regarding the sale of edibles and THC beverages.

An estimated 3,200 businesses have registered to sell THC beverages and other hemp products since June of last year when THC products could move from specialty dispensaries to stores where people typically buy alcohol.

Photo by Elsa Olofsson via Creative Commons/ CC BY 2.0 DEED

Photo by Elsa Olofsson via Creative Commons/ CC BY 2.0 DEED

Sale of THC beverages has been on the rise ever since with them receiving a boost from Dry January sales, the CEO of a local drink and edible maker even referring to it as “High and Dry January” during an interview. Top Ten Liquors, a local chain of liquor stores in the Minneapolis area, has even reported that a THC beverage became one of the top 10 best-selling drinks at the retailer so far this year, alongside the likes of Miller Lite and Captain Morgan’s and coffee shops in the area have been selling beverages containing cannabis; Five Watt Coffee’s in Uptown Minneapolis has seen so much success that almost 70% of the drinks are now cannabis concoctions.

Outside of The Land of Ten Thousand Lakes, THC drinks have made their way into shops in other parts of the country as well, mainly because of tactics that involve what some are calling legal loopholes.

While Connecticut limits the sale of marijuana to a limited number of licensed and highly regulated dispensaries, that didn’t stop manufacturers from finding a loophole to get their products in normal liquor stores, convenience stores, and supermarkets such as Stew Leonards’. While a 7.5 ounce can of THC-infused seltzer might be labeled as a single serving in a dispensary in the state, the same can is labeled as 5 servings rather than 1 and making them legal to sell, due to it technically being under the legal limit for that serving size.

Meanwhile the THC Seltzer brand, WYNK, recently signed a deal with beer distributor Louis Glunz to have them distribute their products in Chicago liquor stores, including local chains Binny’s Beverage Depot and Garfield’s Beverage Warehouse.

THC drinks are even finding their way into stores in states where marijuana isn’t even legal. Iowa may be one of twelve remaining states where cannabis has not been legalized for recreation or even medical reasons, but thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, THC products are still able to find their way onto store shelves as long as the products for sale have levels that are 0.3% or lower.

This means that while smoking marijuana is still illegal, stores are allowed to sell gummies, drinks, tablets, lotions, tinctures, and other products; and stores such as John’s Grocery in Iowa City have found THC-infused drinks become top sellers.

And for those who want a drink that can do a little more than help you sleep, there are plenty of THC beverages to get you high at dispensaries in states where recreational marijuana has been legalized.

One type of THC beverage that is on the rise is what some people are calling cannabis shooters; drinks that come in 2-ounce cans that can pack quite a punch despite their small sizes. These drinks contain 100 milligrams of THC, which is the maximum amount of THC legally allowed in California.

One of the companies currently manufacturing cannabis shooters is Lehua Brands, and they use two processes in one of their beverages called Tiki Blast Zombie Punch to create a fast-acting high from drinking the beverage.

The first process is putting nanoemulsion in the drink to break down the THC oil into microscopic drops and suspend the oil in the drink’s liquid. The second process is infusing the drink with grapefruit juice, cinnamon, and ginger to make the cannabis have a fast and intense hit. As a result, Tiki Blast and similar cannabis shooters can get you high in minutes, even if you just take a small dose.

However, like with many trends, THC beverages have found their fair share of skeptics. The most noteworthy concern that the industry is facing is that there are currently no government age restrictions on who is allowed to purchase THC drinks, even though such restrictions already exist for edibles sold at marijuana dispensaries.

This has resulted in stores and manufacturers having to set their own restrictions with some believing restrictions should be 18+ while others believe it should be 21+. The Brewers Guild has also shown their own concern about the lack of regulation, among their concerns are whether patrons should be allowed to mix THC and alcohol, if THC beverages can be sold at bars and restaurants, and how to ensure spaces for the consumption of THC beverages.

Image Courtesy of Jones Soda

Image Courtesy of Jones Soda

Despite the concerns from critics, this industry isn’t going away anytime soon with Wherehouse Beverage Company’s manager of THC Beverages believing that within the next five years, these beverages will be as pervasive and accepted into society as craft beer is.

When it comes to the manufacturers of these products, Cannabis beverage manufacturer, DeltaBev recently opened a 45,000-sq.-foot Cannabis Beverage Processing Facility in the Los Angeles area, the largest processing facility in the world.

The plant itself is being used for processing and packaging capabilities including canning, bottling, and “mini” production lines for THC beverages. DeltaBev then works with SuLo Distro to distribute these products all across California for DeltaBev’s various clients including Mary Jones, CANN, Sip Elixirs, CQ, Nevis Brands, Tinley’s, award-winning Bodega Coolers, and Cheeche’lada, a cannabis-infused Michelada released in partnership with Cheech Marin.

AJ Favorito is a freelance writer, photographer, and filmmaker specializing in comedy and animation. 

Works Cited

Barkho, Gabriela. “Cannabis Beverage Brands Capitalized on Dry January Interest.” Modern Retail, Digiday Media, 2 Feb. 2024, www.modernretail.co/marketing/cannabis-beverage-brands-capitalized-on-dry-january-interest/.

Crann, Tom, and Lukas Levin. “Brewers Guild Wants More Regulation for THC Drinks out of next Legislative Session.” MPR News, Minnesota Public Radio, 1 Feb. 2024, www.mprnews.org/story/2024/02/01/more-regulation-for-hempderived-thc-drinks-could-be-focus-for-brewers-in-next-session.

Fenster, Jordan Nathaniel, and Kalleen Rose Ozanic. “‘loophole’ in CT Law Lets THC Seltzers Be Sold in Stores …” CT Insider, Hearst Media Services Connecticut, LLC, 28 Jan. 2024, www.ctinsider.com/cannabis/article/thc-seltzers-ct-law-cannabis-18616948.php.

Hoggard, Corin. “THC Drinks Takeoff in Minnesota with Boost from ‘Dry January.’” FOX 9 Minneapolis-St. Paul, KMSP-TV, 31 Jan. 2024, www.fox9.com/news/thc-drinks-takeoff-in-minnesota.

Kaufmann, Justin. “Chicago Liquor Stores Are Selling THC-Infused Drinks – Axios Chicago.” AXIOS Chicago, Axios Media, 10 Dec. 2023, www.axios.com/local/chicago/2023/12/10/thc-seltzers-liquor-stores.

Kazarian, Kristen. “World’s Largest Cannabis Beverage Processing Facility Opens.” Powder Bulk Solids, Informa Markets, a trading division of Informa PLC, 7 Feb. 2024, www.powderbulksolids.com/hemp-cannabis/world-s-largest-cannabis-beverage-processing-facility-opens.

Rish, Jessica. “From Sparkling Water to Edibles, Here Is Where You Can Find Hemp-Derived THC Products in Johnson County.” Iowa City Press-Citizen, USA Today, 29 Jan. 2024, www.press-citizen.com/story/entertainment/2024/01/24/where-to-find-thc-products-in-iowa-city-and-what-to-know-before-you-buy/72316045007/.

Tota, Matthew. “Beer, Wine and THC? THC Drinks Pervade Liquor Stores despite Lack of State Oversight.” Telegram.Com, Telegram & Gazette, 19 Jan. 2024, www.telegram.com/story/lifestyle/food/2024/01/19/beyond-beer-despite-lack-of-state-oversight-thc-beverages-abound/72240834007/.

Wilson, Walter B., et al. “Study Reveals Inaccurate Labeling of Marijuana as Hemp.” National Institute of Justice, US Department of Justice, 17 Oct. 2022, nij.ojp.gov/topics/articles/study-reveals-inaccurate-labeling-marijuana-hemp#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20new%20federal,a%20Schedule%20I%20drug%20substance.

Black, Lester. “Ready for 4/20: This Weed Drink Can Get You and 10 Friends High.” SFGate, Hearst Communications, 19 Apr. 2023, www.sfgate.com/cannabis/article/cannabis-drink-new-california-trend-17897347.php.