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‘Clear demand’ for THC-infused drinks

Following the sale of THC-infused drinks by US retailer Total Wine, one producer told db there was “clear demand” for the beverage and it was “riskier to consume alcohol than THC”.

(Image: Cantrip founder, Adam Terry)

Co-founder and CEO of THC-infused drinks company Cantrip, Adam Terry, made the comments following Total Wine & More’s decision to sell the beverages at three of their Minnesota outlets.

Terry saw the Total Wine launch as a good example of THC-infused products competing on a direct level with alcohol.

He said: “With beer sales declining across the US, alcohol companies are looking to make up the difference. It has been interesting to watch the big companies interact with the space.”

Constellation Brands appeared to be sticking with the licensed channel with Lagunitas in California, Terry said. But, as db reported, the firm is holding back from further investment.

Terry continued: “Pabst is following the same play. Boston Beer Company has launched a THC tea, but only in Canada. The rest seem to be watching and waiting.”

“It’s likely that if there is clarification under federal law, more giants like Coca-Cola and Molson Coors will enter.”

He also predicted an “acquisition spree” in the future, as at present the production of cannabis beverages is still “somewhat niche”. As Terry explained, it is still early days, and the law still lacks clarity in many US jurisdictions, and there are loans and insurance issues around risk.


Terry also challenged the safety perception that some news outlets have said about the drinks. He said “we need to research this more deeply”, and data was sparse due to the long stance on Schedule 1 prohibition in the US. But, he added that currently there was no existing evidence D9-THC has “ever caused a person to overdose” or become poisoned, and that cannabis products are held to the highest standards — often beyond other food and alcohol.

He claimed: “My conclusion is: alcohol is not a safe-to-consume product and not tested for contaminants; cannabis drinks are tested for contaminants frequently and as a matter of regulation.

“Thus, it is riskier to consume alcohol than THC drinks.”

But he also maintained that THC-infused drinks should not be advertising any medical benefit, as some brands do, unless the claim was approved by the FDA. Cantrip doesn’t make such claims, he added.


In terms of regulating the space, another issue often raised by critics of THC-infused drinks, Terry spoke about how operators in the sector took “the standard of producing a safe and effective product very seriously”. A Hemp Beverage Alliance advocates for safety and efficacy guidelines as well as regulations of the products.

“While not all of us agree on every point,” he continued, “we all agree that these products should be created with consumer safety in mind, that d9-THC should be a 21+(age group) product category, and that the government should have a hand in regulating these products like any other adult-use only product.”


There has also been a lot of commentary on the mg level of THC-infused drinks, with some being as much as 50mg of endocannabinoid. So should cannabis drinks be considered like alcohol, and have ‘unit’ levels?

Although Terry admits his view is just an interpretation, he says that around 5mg of D9-THC is a “reasonable dose” but some “prefer to start a little but lighter” at 2.5-5mg. Interestingly, Terry said that “a very small proportion” of people claim that no orally consumed THC affects them at all.

He said: “In most cases, a 5mg d9-THC beverage is most similar to “a beer” in terms of strength.

“Therefore, our 10mg products are more similar to “wine” in terms of strength, and our 50mg products might be analogous to “spirits.””

But he added that the analogy with alcohol was “weak”, and shouldn’t be taken literally, especially as the way that endocannabinoids interact with the human body are “much more complicated” than with alcohol.

Cantrip products above 5mg are divided into smaller servings on the label, he said.


Talking about potential future legal rules on such drinks, Terry said he would like to see further codification of the existing marketplace that was created by the 2018 Farm Bill.

He said: “Cantrip supports reasonable dosing limits – noting that if there were limits less than 5mg/serving (10mg/beverage, 50mg per edible pack) put into place, all of Minnesota’s current small businesses producing and selling these products would become illegal so that is an important floor to put around dosing guidelines.

“It seems unlikely Congress will introduce dosing limits into the Farm Bill, but there may be other avenues for which such legislation might be introduced.”

He also supported “reasonable taxation”, with Minnesota and Tennessee already putting taxes in place at retail, at 10% and 6% respectively.


Following the Total Wine deal, Terry also saw other retailers wanting to get involved, due to the demand.

He concluded: “It started with regional chains, like Top Ten Liquors in Minnesota, followed by semi-national players Total Wine, and eventually will work its way into national players like Whole Foods or Target.”

“There is so much clear demand that it will be hard for them to wait for the federal government forever, and with the Farm Bill as it stands right now providing a fair amount of cover, it’s only a matter of time.”

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