You might have noticed cannabis-infused beverages entering the scene (including HighTide’s tasty margaritas). If you’ve been thinking about getting your buzz in a new way, here’s everything you need to know
Unlike CBD drinks which have been popularized for years, cannabis-infused drinks include THC. Simply put, beverages infused with THC are psychoactive and make you feel ‘high,’ while CBD-infused drinks help you relax without intoxication. Since its initial prohibition in 1914 to its rise to legalization in 2023, cannabis policy in the United States has undoubtedly gone through its ups and downs. Criminalized market trade, mass incarcerations, and constant legal pressure have marred an industry that has now jumped to legalization in 21 states – and counting.
With the cannabis industry now expected to grow a startling 21x in the next five years, consumers are creating an increased demand for more products, innovations, and usages for cannabis in their day-to-day lives. Enter cannabis-infused beverages. Sharing only 1.2% of the industry, cannabis-infused beverages are set to take up around 25% of the market when the dust settles.
This number is expected to go up for a good reason. Beverages are the centerpiece at your everyday party – BBQs, beach days, and even dinner parties usually involve some mind-altering drink, and it’s almost always alcohol. Though with more mindful consumers searching for a different way to get their buzz and socialize with that ‘can in hand’ feel, THC-infused mocktails have begun to fill that space. Cannabis-infused beverages are easier to dose, tastier to ingest, hangover-free, and above all, fulfill the psychological can-in-hand aspect of the everyday party.
But before this marketplace sector thrives, we need to address consumer concerns about this form of cannabis consumption. Why now? How is it different from smoking? How much do I drink? We’ve got all this (and more) covered.
Why Are Cannabis Beverages Entering Now?
Cannabis-infused beverages are not as much of a revolutionary product as we’d like to think (especially here at HighTide). As far back as 2737 B.C., ancient physicians were prescribing Cannabis-infused tea for stress and pain relief, malaria, and other common infections with no modern-world cure. Cannabis drinks were spread throughout Asia and the Middle East, and certain Hindu sects of India also took their drinks for spiritual purposes.
We weren’t the first to do this, but it took the modern world time to perfect the mix for new-age consumption. The problem comes down to how THC and water combine, leaving a ‘goopy’ and ‘thick’ effect on cannabis, which isn’t ideal for a positive experience. However, in recent years, new emulsion technology has made it possible to mix THC into a wide range of different beverages, allowing consumers a drink alternative to smoking and vaping and giving other popular beer and spirit manufacturers a new way to brand existing products like seltzers towards a more alcohol-free society.
As we move into a cannabis-infused world, we think the most important myth to address is how they differ from a traditional ‘edible.’ While they may seem alike, there are key differences to understand.
Cannabis Beverages vs. Edibles
When you think of cannabis edibles, you might jump right to the familiar tropes of 8-hour highs mixed with unsure dosage and long waiting times to feel the effects. Let’s face it; almost every experienced user has a hometown story about someone’s buddy who made a batch of brownies that inevitably got your rookie stoners too high and terrified to try it ever again.
Times have changed.
Consumers no longer rely on an unreliable ‘chef’ without a proper measuring cup. Without even discussing its drink companion, edibles have come a long way with lower, safer doses made with all-natural, gourmet quality. However, they can still be dosed differently and come with different effects. And, of course, homemade edibles are still out there and come with their dosing differences.
Cannabis Oral Dosage Differences
The fear of taking ‘way too much’ comes from eating that sketchy cousin’s ultra-packed cannabis brownie that isn’t dosed safely for new (or even existing) consumers. When cannabis was completely criminalized, consumers had to turn to outside resources that weren’t measuring or advertising the level of THC contained in their product. When a new cannabis user wanted to try, this may have led to unwanted effects a new user’s body wouldn’t be ready for, setting a precedent for cannabis fear.
With new regulations in play, the cannabis industry has opened up a much gentler and more controllable way of consumption. Instead of eating 50mg without knowing it, you can now engage with small drink doses such as HighTide (5mg), which you can sip at your own pace. If you feel yourself not enjoying the effects, you can stop before any more enters your bloodstream. In the end, it comes down to practicing safe consumption and taking in the experience you want to have.
Dosage aside, onset factors are different between cannabis beverages and edibles. We all have a friend who wasn’t ‘feeling’ the edible, ended up taking more, and found themselves in a vegetative state on the couch for 7 hours. Part of the importance of taking things at your own pace is feeling where you are and gauging your next move. With new technological advancements, some edibles and almost all cannabis beverages can have a more rapid onset, sometimes within 5 minutes, while leaving your system within an hour, giving it a more controllable experience. You can look at the comparison of old-world edibles and new cannabis beverages, like sipping on a light watery beer vs. slamming five shots in a matter of minutes.
One on hand, you can feel what you’re going up against. On the other, close your eyes and pray.
With anything in life, moderation is key, and be sure to regulate your consumption to a healthy standard you deem fit.
Cannabis-Infused Beverages vs. Smoking THC
Vaping, rolling blunts, and passing joints are all staples in the cannabis community. With cannabis-infused beverages hitting the scene, there is a need to explain how smoking will affect you instead of drinking it.
As we discussed, oral ingestion does come with lead times for absorption. Some, like ours, provide an onset within 10 minutes. However, some edibles could take up to two hours for the high to peak, according to Leafly. The high will fade over the next three hours, give or take. Compared to the effects of inhaled cannabis, which typically peaks in 10 minutes and lasts an hour or so. And although edibles may be potent, they technically deliver a smaller concentration of cannabinoids to the bloodstream. Edibles deliver 10% to 20% of THC, the primary psychoactive compound in weed that gets you high. Inhaled cannabis delivers around 50% to 60%.
As far as safety is concerned, while not as harmful as cigarettes, cannabis and the materials used to smoke still contain similar ingredients, leading to damaging respiratory repercussions that oral ingestion doesn’t affect. This isn’t to say that cannabis beverages are truly risk-free. Instead of intake through your lungs, drinking cannabis involves traveling and processing through the stomach and kidneys. There isn’t enough empirical evidence to close the case on if this method of consumption is truly safer than smoking, and we’re not going to endorse either as being the supreme consumption method. We love drinking HighTide, and we also love smoking.
Cannabis Beverages vs. Alcohol
Cannabis beverages are quickly becoming a new way for consumers, especially younger users, looking for alcohol alternatives to get their buzz. According to Deseret News, Gen Z is not drinking anywhere near generations before them. Gallup found that the number of college-aged Americans who don’t drink alcohol has jumped from 20% to 28% and is climbing through the decade.
Clearly, younger generations are turning away from alcohol, and for good reason. Compared to alcohol, the risk of cannabis consumption is much lower. According to the CDC, six people per day die of alcohol poisoning, and this doesn’t even include other facts such as intoxicated driving. On the other hand, there is no accurate data to address cannabis overdoses, likely because the industry is still relatively new and likely because overdosing means an uncomfortable night tucked into bed instead of blacking out and forgetting where you are. With anything, however, moderation is key. The government regulates cannabis beverages to 5mg doses, meaning beginners can sip their cannabis at their own pace, and when they’re ready to stop, stop.
Many other factors are at play when it comes to cannabis-infused beverages, and this blog would become even longer if we were to get into it more (stay tuned). In the end, however, cannabis beverages are an excellent avenue for consumption if smoking isn’t your thing or if higher-dose edibles don’t do it for you. If you’re looking for an alcohol alternative, cannabis beverages are a promising mocktail to take to social events and feel even more ‘in the moment.’ And, with a market primed to burst through the industry, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll begin to see more and more products at your disposal. Our recommendation? Drink HighTide.