Weed beer is near, and it’s gonna be weird

(NEW YORK POST) – Would you drink marijuana-infused beer? Beer companies think so, but they are going to have to navigate a hazy path of rules and regulations to find out.

Two Roots Brewing Co. has spent millions of dollars clearing that path, and shows just how convoluted it can be. To get its weed beer to the masses, the San Diego, Calif., startup had to engineer a new way for marijuana to enter a drinker’s bloodstream, remove the alcohol from the beer altogether, and develop a multi-state production system that only infuses the pot into the drink when it has reached the state where it is sold.

All of those efforts have led to sales in just California and Nevada, though at least residents of those two states now have non-alcoholic beer that can get them high.

As giants of the alcohol industry buy into the concept of potent pot potables, they will have to confront the same issues: A confusing maze of laws dealing with pot and beer, even in states such as Colorado that have allowed adult recreational marijuana use for several years, as well as simple human biology.

Giants in the beverage industry such as Molson Coors Brewing and Constellation Brands are making bold bets on weed beer as beer sales continue to drop across the US, and more are expected to jump on the bandwagon, even though the concept of weed beer has not yet proved to be popular. Beverage sales of $1.8 million accounted for just 0.7 percent of marijuana sold in June in California — the largest single market in North America — while the vast majority of pot sales, $175.7 million, was for products meant to smoke or vape, according to data from BDS Analytics, a business intelligence firm focused on cannabis.

“Right now, drinkables make up a very small portion of the cannabis market,” said Troy Dayton, chief executive of Arcview, which conducts research into cannabis markets and connects investors to early-stage companies. “Many big companies are looking at the intersection between functional beverages [infused with cannabis] and beer. Those are coming together to create a big hotspot.”

That hotspot is fraught with regulatory issues, however. Alcohol rules can vary from state to state and have caused headaches for the alcohol industry even before introducing marijuana into the mix. Cannabis consumption is legal in only a few US states, though a large potential market will open when legalization takes hold throughout Canada in October.

Beyond just the complex and changing legal landscape, there are issues with consumer knowledge of the differences between drinking a beer and a drink laced with cannabis extracts. Canopy Growth Corp. Chief Executive Bruce Linton, who sold a $4 billion stake in the Canadian cannabis business to Corona beer-maker Constellation last week, told MarketWatch that beverage sales will remain a fraction of the overall market because the doses are too strong and the effects are wildly variable.

“The common problem with the current format of beverages is that you drink too much of it and you’re too crushed,” Linton said. “Rather than being a seven- to 12-minute onset period, it’s ‘who knows,’ and if you eat a cheeseburger too, it may be less time — it can be 20 to 50 minutes. So there’s a very weak feedback loop.”