Many of us are already familiar with traditional edibles such as gummies, hash brownies, and cannabis cookies. However, cannabis-infused drinks fly under the radar, as they only form 5% of the edible weed industry. As it conspires, there's a growing range of drinks crafted from the cannabis plant, with fun, flavorsome options available. Cannabis cocktail or aperitif, anyone?
Like traditional edibles, THC-infused cannabis beverages can also get you high–think of them as a euphoric substitute for your go-to alcoholic beverage. This article will give you the 101 on cannabis beverages, how they interact with the body, and where to get your hot little hands on a refreshing weed-infused drink.
What is a Cannabis Beverage?
Cannabis beverages contain cannabinoids, such as THC or CBD, as their active ingredient. CBD beverages are infused with cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating cannabinoid associated with anxiety-easing, relaxing properties. THC-infused drinks contain THC, the cannabinoid responsible for delivering a euphoric high.
People may turn to CBD products to ease stress and promote feelings of calm. THC drinks, on the other hand, provide different effects to the head and body. Depending on the formulation of the drink and the amount you consume, those who drink a THC-infused beverage may experience focus, balance, relaxation, chattiness, and sociability, or even drowsiness in addition to the psychoactive effects the cannabinoid is known for.
While cannabis beverages (like cannabis tea) have been around for decades, they’ve rarely garnered mainstream appeal because cannabinoids in the cannabis plant are hydrophobic (not water soluble) and therefore don't blend easily into drinks.
However, recent advances, such as nanoemulsion technology, make mixing cannabinoids into a water-based drink quick and seamless. Cannabis products have benefited majorly from this technology, with cannabis-infused seltzers, beers, and cocktails hitting the store shelves, boasting benefits such as improved bioavailability, faster uptake than cannabis edibles, and more precise dosing.
Instead of globs of THC sitting on the top of the liquid or clinging to the sides of the can, nanoemulsion means the THC is distributed evenly throughout the entire drink. Nowadays, cannabis beverages are rapidly gaining popularity as a healthier, hangover-free, more calorie-conscious alternative to alcoholic beverages.
Many weed drinks are formulated with delicious flavors to create a beverage experience that’s subtle and sophisticated enough to be consumed in social settings, such as lemon lavender, yuzu, grapefruit, or cardamom.
Do Cannabis Drinks Get You High?
While it may seem a little wild that sipping a cannabis cocktail can get you properly high, believe it–because it does! Like traditional edibles, cannabis drinks that contain THC deliver the cannabinoid into the bloodstream courtesy of the body’s digestive system.
It’s important to note that the intensity of the high will depend on the kind of drink you’ve consumed and how much you’ve drunk (similar to a traditional alcoholic drink). While some brands of cannabis beverages aim to give the user a modest canna-buzz courtesy of microsing, stronger brews muscle in with a heavier-hitting dose. Cannabis seltzers tend to have a lighter THC load of up to 5mg THC, weed-infused wines hover around 10mg THC to pack more punch, and cannabis elixirs (think the equivalent of liquors) can contain high doses of up to 100mg THC.
Many weed drinks are meant to be consumed instead of alcohol, delivering a subtle head and body buzz rather than an incapacitating, paranoia-inducing high. While newbies may feel the psychoactive effects of a single drink, seasoned users may experience that same dose as a more muted, feel-good sensation.
How Long Do Cannabis Beverages Take to Kick In?
Like traditional edibles, THC-infused beverages are absorbed into the bloodstream via the digestive system. However, THC beverages boast one significant advantage over edible products: Liquids are absorbed by the gut more quickly than solids. While you wait for up to an hour to start feeling the effects of a single gummy, the effects of a cannabis drink can become apparent in as few as 8-15 minutes.
THC in the drink is rapidly absorbed through mucosal membranes under the tongue and inside the cheeks before being absorbed via the digestive tract. While food has to first be digested by the gut before nutrients and other compounds can be absorbed, liquids can be absorbed–no digestion process is necessary.
Thanks to this quick onset, cannabis drink consumers don't have to wait for ages before the effects become apparent. The delayed onset time of edibles sees many users preemptively reaching for another gummy and greening out when the high finally arrives. In comparison, cannabis drinks offer a more balanced experience where the buzz becomes noticeable not long after taking your first sip. This means you're less likely to overdo it.
How Long Do the Effects Last?
Like any cannabis product, the duration of the effects depends on how many milligrams of THC you've consumed. A cannabis-infused beer with a modest 4 milligrams of THC may deliver a mild buzz for an hour, whereas a shot of an elixir containing 20 milligrams could see you stoned for several hours.
In general, a cannabis drink peaks at around the 45-minute mark, with the whole beverage-induced high lasting about 90 minutes on average. The sooner you start feeling the effects, the sooner they will fade. Because the entire high can be over within 90 minutes, the relatively rapid and easy come-down means you can reach for another drink when ready.
Slow sipping means you can draw the experience out gently. Downing a can in one go may mean you're more likely to experience the high like a ton of bricks (and the possibility of side effects like anxiety).
How to Find the Right Dosage
For those new to the world of marijuana drinks, finding the right dosage can represent a source of consternation. In the past, edibles have caused issues as a single cannabis-infused cookie contained way more than one serving of THC–which can be super confusing for consumers.
Fortunately, many cannabis-infused drinks now designate a single unit or serving of drink as one serving of THC. This new wave of cannabis-infused beverages are designed to be drunk in chilled, social settings, so you can crack open a can of cannabis-infused seltzer and know that the can contains 4mg THC rather than mess around measuring shots.
However, other cannabis beverage products with higher concentrations of THC (like 100mg in a single container), will designate the recommended dose on the back of the label or outline the number of servings on the container. Read the label carefully to make sure you know what you’re consuming. According to cannabis research agency Headset, over half of the cannabis beverages sold in the U.S. in 2021 contained 100 mg THC, an amount that could significantly intoxicate the average consumer.
In general, it's helpful to remember that most experts consider a standard single dose of THC to be five milligrams. If you're new to cannabis drinks and use that as your yardstick, you have a solid reference point for figuring out how high a single drink will get you. Seasoned cannasseurs will probably feel more comfortable with a high dose, like a 10-20 milligram serving of THC.
As always, follow the old adage of start low and go slow–drink a little, observe how your body feels, then increase your dosage when you feel ready.
Where Can You Find THC-Infused Beverages?
If cannabis-infused drinks sound like your cup of tea (pun intended), you can purchase them from dispensaries in states where medical or recreational marijuana has been legalized. Cannabis users living in super liberal states in the United States, like California, may access a wider range of products thanks to creative cannabis culture, technological innovation, and a desire for luxury cannabis consumption experiences.
Many emerging cannabis beverage brewers who aren’t widely distributed in storefronts are also making their stamp online, offering discounts for bulk purchases to those who want to dip their toes into the world of weed-infused drinks. Delta-8 and CBD drinks are also an option for cannabis consumers who want to experiment with other beverages infused with cannabinoids.
Overall, the cannabis beverage industry is rapidly growing as imbibing weed represents an easy, fun, delicious social way to consume our favorite plant. Keep an eye out for the movers and shakers in the weed drinks niche–some popular brands include Keef, Cann, Artet, Alt, Mad Lilly, Wunder, Rebel Coast, and Lagunitas Hi-Fi Hops. Cheers!