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PART ONE:

Do Stoners Hate Weed Drinks?

Cannabis companies really want weed drinks to catch on. It’s not that surprising—the people investing millions (or even billions) into the legal weed industry aren’t cannabis enthusiasts, they’re capitalists looking to make money, and every good capitalist knows farmers don’t make a lot of money. The further you process a product into something other than its raw ingredients, the more you can charge for it. The barley farmer doesn’t make as much money as the baker, and both make less than a well-capitalized brewer.

Which brings us to the point of this article: Beer companies are pouring billions of dollars into the weed industry, with some executives claiming pot drinks will soon replace joints, or at least make a sizable dent in the overall pot market.

But that has yet to happen.

After years of legal cannabis sales, drinks are still only a tiny fraction of the market. When Headset, a Seattle data firm, averaged drink sales across the states of Washington, Colorado, and Nevada, they found that drinks made up just 1.28 percent of all pot sales in June 2019.

Those mini-fridges that showed up in legal weed stores are still just that—mini-fridges with a couple dozen drinks in them that customers rarely reach for.

Why are the biggest pot businesses in the world still trying to turn weed drinks into a thing when customers don’t seem to be biting? Rolling Stone that had her drinking weed at Coachella, exploring a 120,000-square-foot cannabis bottling factory in Canada that turned out to be “really just an empty box,” and schmoozing at a $40,000 party in Napa Valley celebrating a new weed rosé that a guest describes as a “Marlborough sauvignon blanc.” Chicago Lewis eventually discovers that this corporate-created “anti-trend” might have more to do with the current economics of alcohol than anything about cannabis:

“I discovered the reality is that Big Beer is going after pot drinks because its own industry has been in slow, steady decline for two decades. First, cocktails and wine grew more accessible, chipping away at beer’s market share. Then, craft breweries led a revolution against domestic lager juggernauts like Budweiser and Miller Lite. Now, with Americans increasingly concerned about the negative health implications of drinking and legalized cannabis poised to take a huge bite out of the recreational intoxication consumer spending pie, giant beer companies are trying to maintain their lucrative dominance over how we turn up and wind down.”

I agree with this analysis—weed beverages feel much more like a reflexive stock-market impulse rather than artisans trying to create new products. I would add one more detail, though. These companies might stumble into creating a sustainable beverage product category if they get away from high-THC products. People who already like bong rips aren’t likely to replace those with drinks, especially when we have amazing smoke-free vape products. But what if weed beverages were not intended to produce a heavy stoning, but instead used for microdoses of THC or doses of other rare cannabinoids? 

Chicago Lewis’s reporting found that Canada’s billion-dollar pot companies don’t seem to be thinking about these compounds, but what if there were drinks filled with mood-elevating CBG, or energizing THCV, or anti-nausea Delta-8-THC, or sedating CBN? That’s something I could drink to. Another 100 milligrams of THC? I’ll pass. LESTER BLACK


PART TWO:

Are Pot Sodas Worth the Price?

After my office manager told me that Happy Apple’s 100-milligram cannabis-infused apple soda gave her a near-death experience, I knew I had to try it myself.

She drank half of the 12-ounce beverage and did a few bong rips, and she said she became panicky, paranoid, and had to keep one foot on the ground to keep the world from spinning. ”We turned off the lights and put on Futurama,” she said, “which helped a lot because at least it was familiar.” She was fine by morning, but the strength of this drink was confirmed by a budtender who told me that he drank a weed soda before a shift and fell asleep at work.

The idea of getting that high might not be appealing to everyone, but I’ve been on a mission to get scary stoned for years. This mission has largely been a failure. With the exception of a very large blunt smoked on the rooftop of a 28-story building last year, no bong hit, no edible, no Rick Simpson Oil, no dab has come close to making my world spin. I’ve smoked so much pot that I barely get buzzed anymore, no matter how much I ingest. If anything could get me scary stoned, I hoped this soda was it.

I drank it on a warm Saturday afternoon. The 12-ounce drink—which, according to the label, contained 10 servings—was crisp, refreshing, and not too sweet. It tasted more like apple cider than apple soda, and it went down far easier than the Everclear-based cannabis tincture I make weed drinks with at home. It was also $30, which is exceedingly pricey for a single high. You could always drink some and save the rest for later, but that’s the problem with weed sodas: Once you pop the top, they start going flat.

About an hour after draining the bottle, I was murdering blackberry bushes in my backyard and started feel a wave coming on. Convinced that I was about to be on my ass for the rest of the night, I rushed inside to prepare. I gathered snacks, put on soft pants, and picked out a playlist. And then I waited. And waited. And waited.

The wave never came. I might as well have taken $30 and burned it.

Clearly, I am not the typical user, so I got two more sodas and gave them to my colleagues to try. One co-worker split a 10-milligram Honeydew Melon Soda by Olala with his boyfriend before going to see a Kara Swisher lecture downtown. “I smoke weed all the time, but I’m sensitive to edibles for some stupid reason. So five milligrams is usually fine for me,” he said. “It was more like a strong aspirin. It took away the pain of being in a concert hall surrounded by baby boomers, but it did not make me feel, like, Tommy Chong–high.” He recommends it as a melatonin replacement before bed.

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Another co-worker drank a 30-milligram Moss Cow Mule Ginger Beer at precisely 4:20 pm. “By 5:20, I was just starting to feel some effects,” he said. “Mostly a lazy-limb body high.” He said he was less pissed than usual when his bus was late, but, he added, “I went to the mall and returned a computer cord without embarrassing myself, so I couldn’t have been that high.” By the time he made it home, he said he’d completely forgotten that he’d had any pot.

These sodas can work, I’m sure of it—but not if you have the tolerance of a lesser Marley brother. For us, I’m afraid, the only way to get scary stoned is tolerance breaks. KATIE HERZOG