Edibles have been the breakout star of cannabis legalization — but drinkables could offer a whole new kind of high
About a year ago, when Lyden Henderson took a sip of a nonalcoholic, cannabis-infused beer, he discovered something was amiss: The beverage was chunky — bits of cannabis floated throughout the beer, creating an unpleasant consistency. “It tasted kind of like I was drinking milk that had been sitting in the refrigerator for two or three months,” Henderson says. “It had the worst texture. It was one of the grossest things I had ever tried in my life.”
Just call that negative experience research. Henderson and his colleagues at Outbound Brewing, the nonalcoholic THC- and CBD-infused-beer company he co-founded in 2018, spent more than a year and a half making sure their nonalcoholic cannabis beer wasn’t chunky or lumpy. When the beverage line launched earlier this year, Henderson was sure each 12-ounce bottle maintained a smooth drink infused with 10 mg of THC or 20 mg of CBD. It felt like they’d cracked a code.
Cannabis is notoriously difficult to effectively infuse into beverages. Cannabinoids, the compounds in the cannabis plant, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), are fat-soluble and not easily mixed with water. (Another liquid product, tinctures, use alcohol as a base in which to mix cannabinoids, though the consumption experience of placing an eyedropper under your tongue to dispense the solution is a far cry from sipping a drink.) For oral-ingestion purposes, edibles and baked goods have long been the standard, since cannabinoids are easily mixed with fatty butters and oils. While THC is soluble in alcohol, it is illegal to combine alcohol and cannabis in the United States — so water-based drinks prevail.
- Cannabis edibles come in both solid and beverage forms, and are similarly absorbed through the digestive tract, which may delay potential effects and cause them to persist longer.
- Consumers may only purchase 30 g of dried cannabis flower or its equivalent at one time. For cannabis beverages, OCS.ca automatically calculates the equivalent amount before purchase.
- Avoid consuming cannabis and alcohol at the same time. Doing so may cause more severe levels of impairment and adverse effects
Offering another way to consume cannabis, edibles are available for purchase in two forms: solids (such as chocolates, baked goods and confectionaries) and beverages. Here are the basics on cannabis beverages, including what they are, how they work, some of the pros and cons of consuming them, and what to consider when shopping.
What are cannabis beverages?
Cannabis beverages come in many flavours and varieties including — sparkling and flat waters, ready-made teas and tea bags — all containing THC or CBD, or a mix of both.
To make cannabis beverages, producers infuse a liquid, such as sparkling or flat water, with cannabis extract or concentrate. However, because cannabis extract is an oil, it isn’t water soluble, so it must be blended with an emulsifier in order to produce a smooth finished product. (Consumers steep loose teas and tea bags in water at home, but these are still considered cannabis beverages.)
What are the pros and cons of consuming cannabis beverages?
Cannabis beverages offer a smoke-free option to inhaling dried cannabis flower, which can come with potential risks to lung health.
However, The cannabinoids (such as THC and other active ingredients) in cannabis beverages are absorbed through the digestive tract, which means the onset of effects can be 30 minutes to 4 hours or more — much longer than the almost-immediate effects from smoking. The effects of cannabis beverages may also persist for 12 hours or more.
To minimize the risk for overconsumption, Health Canada recommends starting with a very small amount (2.5 mg of THC or less), especially if you are trying a new product, and waiting to see how it affects your body.
What should I consider when shopping for cannabis beverages?
Just like other edibles, cannabis beverages may contain no more than 10 mg of THC per unit. Before you purchase an edible product, read the label or the information available on the product page at OCS.ca so you know how much THC and CBD it contains.
When shopping through OCS.ca or at an Authorized Retailer, you may only purchase 30 g of dried cannabis flower at one time (this is the same amount you may legally carry with you). This is easy to calculate when the product you are purchasing is dried flower, but for other formats, it’s more complicated.
For your shopping convenience, OCS.ca automatically calculates the number of grams in your entire purchase. These purchase limits are in line with Licensed Producers’ products, which are based on Health Canada’s regulations.
Cannabis packaging made on or after Oct. 17, 2019, will list the product’s equivalency to grams of dried cannabis.
Any tips I should know?
Read the product label carefully so you know how much THC and CBD it contains. If you are trying edibles for the first time, choose a product with a low level of THC or a high amount of CBD, which can counter the unpleasant effects of THC.
Avoid consuming cannabis and alcohol at the same time. Doing so the potential effects and can lead to extreme intoxication, dizziness and nausea, and further lower concentration and reaction times. Combining cannabis with alcohol can also increase vulnerable people’s risk of experiencing psychotic symptoms.
All cannabis products, especially edibles that look like other common food products, can be appealing to children, and should be kept in a secure spot, such as a lockable container.
What’s in Cannabis Drinks?
Shockingly enough — the main ingredient is elements of cannabis: THC, CBD, terpenes, other cannabinoids and more. Of course, THC and CBD content can vary based on what type of experience the drink is trying to achieve.
Other ingredients also vary quite a bit based on flavours — terpenes and THC/CBD content affects flavour quite a bit, but many drinks have added ingredients including sugar and artificial flavouring.
What do They Taste Like?
There’s a drink for every palate. Tweed’s Bakerstreet and Ginger has a ginger ale flavour, Veryvell’s Sicilian Lemon is for the citrus heads, Houseplant has a strong grapefruit flavour, Everie has a soothing lavender chamomile Tea and the list goes on.
Taste can depend on a few things — THC/CBD content, terpenes and added ingredients. Added ingredients like sugar or artificial flavouring can make cannabis drinks more akin to store-bought sodas, while terpenes can give it a more natural flavour. THC/CBD content however will greatly affect flavour — if both are in abundance, the taste of the drink will be more “earthy” or taste more like cannabis in general. Tweed’s Deep Space for example has 10mg of THC per can and takes on the taste of cannabis quite a bit.
Types of Cannabis Drinks
These are carbonated cannabis drinks that often come in a can or a glass bottle. They often have added ingredients like sugar or artificial flavouring and come in a variety of flavours. They are ready to drink after cooling in the refrigerator.
These are bags filled with cannabis and tea leaves that can be steeped with boiling water. Cannabis tea bags are great for dose control as the longer you steep it — the stronger the tea will become.
These are bags filled with a dissolvable powder to be put in water to create a cannabis drink. These are also great for dose control and can be stored much easier than pre-made cannabis drinks.
TYPES OF THC-INFUSED DRINKS
From flavored waters, seltzers, coffee, tea, and soda, THC-infused drinks have something for every taste. THC beverages can be mood-specific (sativa, hybrid, or indica) or even taste and smell like your favorite cultivar.
The bottle or can should clearly show the amount of THC milligrams inside the full container. There may also be a label stating how many doses are in the container, which is important to know if you’re a beginner. The industry-recommended single dose of THC is technically 10mg. However, if you’re new to cannabis, 10mg of THC is a lot to consume at once. We recommend a first dose much lower than that — no more than 5mg to start, or even lower if you want to play it very safe (and we recommend always playing it safe).
|THC content per dose||What to expect||Who it’s for|
|1–2.5mg||Unlikely to have a psychoactive effectRelief of mild pain, stress, or anxiety||BeginnersMicrodosers|
|2.5–10mg||Moderate psychoactive effect between 5mg and 10mgEuphoriaRelief of moderate chronic pain|| Those with persistent moderate chronic pain|
Restless sleepersSocial users
|10mg–30mg||Strong psychoactive effect, euphoria or overconsumption for inexperienced usersRelief of intense chronic painCould cause impairment or altered perception for inexperienced users||Experienced usersMedical users with intense to severe chronic painUsers who have insomnia or trouble sustaining sleep|
|30mg+||Extreme psychoactive effect or overconsumption for inexperienced usersImpairment or altered perception||Very experienced users who may have developed a high tolerance to THCMedical users with cancer or severe chronic painUsers who have severe sleep disorders|
You may have noticed that we did not mention THC-infused alcohol. Currently, there are laws restricting the development of alcoholic beverages that contain the psychoactive THC. This is because the mixture of alcohol and cannabis increases the intensity of both. Most, if not all, cannabis professionals will advise you not to combine the two, especially in high doses, as mixing them will often cause you to become anxious or vomit as a result of “spinning.”