Ever since recreational cannabis was legalized in Canada, consumers and brands have been searching for new and innovative ways of consuming it. From gummies to vape cartridges, there are now dozens of ways to enjoy a kick of THC or a soothing dose of CBD, without necessarily smoking. Cannabis-infused beverages are a relatively new addition to the cannabis market and they promise to be the next most delicious thing since space cookies.
But what are cannabis beverages and how do they work?
Technically, drinkable cannabis products are a subcategory of cannabis edibles.
They are made by simply infusing a liquid with cannabis extracts blended with an emulsifying agent (usually some kind of oil, since cannabinoids are not water-soluble). While that addition made early iterations of cannabis drinkables a bit inconsistent, recent technologies have allowed of much more palatable results.
Beverages come in a wide assortment of formats, including sparking water, bagged and loose leaf teas, sodas, as well as powders. These products usually contain THC and/or CBD that are activated and immediately effective -which makes them more sensible than dried bud that needs to be decarboxylated (combusted or heated).
Due to the psychoactive nature of THC, it is usually infused in light beverages such as coffee, tea and soda. Alcoholic drinks are not currently available, since THC doesn’t mix well with alcohol, and the combination can produce unwanted (and potentially dangerous) side effects.
When purchasing THC-infused beverages, make sure to go for a product with 5mg of THC or less, just to be safe.
CBD, the “yang” to THC’s “ying”, is much more flexible in its use since it is not psychoactive. Therefore, it can even be infused in alcoholic drinks. It is unlikely you’d ever suffer from a CBD overdose, but in larger doses it can make you feel lethargic. If that’s not your end goal, it might be a good idea to practice moderation.
We mentioned above that cannabis beverages are subsets of edible products, and as such, they get absorbed through digestion. If you’ve ever eaten a cannabis brownie, you can guess how it works. Due to the slow onset time of edibles, it may take up to a couple of hours until the active ingredient kicks in. In addition, the effects last longer as well (up to 10 hours).
The potency of cannabis drinks varies depending on the active ingredient and the amount the product contains. The legal limit for drink products is 10mg for THC, while there is no such provision for non-psychoactive CBD. You can check the potency of each product on the label to make sure you’re getting the right one for you.
When consuming THC products, users -and especially newbies- should exercise caution. As stated previously, the effects of edible products are not immediate. Therefore, you should start slowly and increase the dosage incrementally after a few hours. When ingested, THC is far more powerful, thus increasing the risk of unwanted side effects. In any case, it is always good to go with a product containing about 2-3mg of THC and have some CBD handy to counteract the high.
According to a study published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Weight, metabolism, gender, and eating habits also contribute to how soon and for how long someone will feel intoxicated following oral ingestion”.
For those who like the effects of cannabis but hate smoking or vaping, edibles and beverages provide an excellent (and tastier) alternative. Additionally, beverages serve more than one purpose: you can quench your thirst or kick back and relax with a drink, while at the same time enjoying the positive effects of cannabis.
However, there are a few negatives to consuming drinkables. Beverages and juices are notorious for increasing your caloric intake without providing much nutritional value. Also, since drinking is a much more accessible intake method, the user can be led to overconsumption.
Let’s assume you’ve found the dispensary you’d like to buy from. What now?
Some things to review before ordering are:
The good news about cannabis drinks is that they are made from distilled cannabinoids and therefore do not carry the unpleasant grassy taste of raw weed. Most products are flavored or completely neutral. Moreover, some products get their taste by including terpenes in their ingredients. Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in a variety of plants, and they are responsible for their distinct flavor. For example, the pungent smell of mango is mainly due to the high concentration of a terpene called myrcene, which can also be found in cannabis.
According to the Federal Cannabis Act, cannabis possession is permitted within legal limits. People of minimum age and above can possess up to 30 grams of cannabis or 2,100 grams of liquid. Cannabis-infused beverages count against your quota, so make sure to buy within the legal range. Most online and physical shops will let you know if your purchase surpasses the legal public possession limit.
Cannabis drinks are a great idea if you want to enjoy the effects of cannabis without putting your lungs at risk. However, as with most things in life, moderation is key -especially in the beginning. Do not hesitate to ask your budtender or your doctor if you have any concerns and always remember the golden rule of cannabis edibles: start low and go slow.