It’s not a secret that edibles are becoming a major part of the cannabis industry.
But in recent years, industry forecasters have set their sights on a new growth area: Cannabis-infused beverages.
According to market research survey by NCSolutions, 10% of respondents said they’d tried a cannabis-infused drink, while 38% said they wanted to try it. Especially among younger generations, cannabis drinks have become more popular as Americans begin to find ways to actively drink less alcohol.
It might take a little while before New Jersey legal weed dispensaries begin offering a robust array of cannabis drinks. But here’s answers to some basic questions in the meantime.
Wait, you can buy drinks with weed in them?
The term “edibles” goes far beyond pot brownies and gummies. Once legal weed states begin allowing shelf-stable edible forms of cannabis, it opens up a host of new options – including beverages.
At a dispensary in New York, you can find a four-pack of pineapple mango sparking water for $16 (a single can costs $5). In Massachusetts, you can find a box of individual iced tea and lemonade powder mixes for $20.
More:More NJ legal weed edibles could soon hit shelves
How popular are legal weed drinks?
For now, it’s still a relatively niche market. But forecasters expect it to explode in the coming years.
According to analysis by cannabis industry researcher Headset, beverages only accounted for 1.1% of the U.S. cannabis market in 2022. But even 1.1% represents exponential growth. Cannabis beverage sales in Michigan nearly quadrupled from 2021 to 2022, while Massachusetts saw cannabis beverage sales increase by over 50%.
About 28% of beverage sales were drops, mixes and syrups, while 23% of sales were fruit drinks, iced teas and lemonades. Another 21% of sales were carbonated cannabis beverages, according to Headset.
What’s the difference between the cannabis drinks at an NJ dispensary and the ones at my local liquor store?
Technically, products are allowed to contain trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana. As long as a product contains 0.3% or less THC, it’s permitted under the 2018 federal law that legalized the cultivation and manufacture of hemp products. That bill also led to the explosion of products infused with CBD, a different, non-psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant.
All of these products contain cannabis – but they’re not nearly as potent as products available at a dispensary. And you have to be careful: Some of these drinks also contain alcohol.
What can I get at a NJ dispensary right now?
Options are severely limited – and in the case of actual, single-serve cans of cannabis-infused drinks? There’s nothing.
Some products can be used to infuse a liquid, like Curaleaf’s “Select” squeeze drops, available in 100 mg containers (with a few flavor options) for $38.
But you’ll have to wait a little longer to see a robust cannabis beverage market in the Garden State.
Why is NJ taking so long?
Until last year, cannabis manufacturers weren’t even allowed to make shelf-stable edibles. They couldn’t even call gummies “gummies,” instead marketing them as “soft lozenges” to comply with previous restrictions.
Edibles have faced tight restrictions in New Jersey going back to the birth of the medical marijuana program in 2010. Soft lozenges, chewable tablets and pills weren’t even permitted until 2021.
In October, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission started the formal rule-making process to allow for shelf-stable products, like drinks. In the meantime, manufacturers can apply for waivers to begin creating shelf-stable products immediately.
“We believe that cannabis edibles have the potential to provide an alternative and convenient method for adults to access cannabis, and the proposed regulations aim to establish clear guidelines for their responsible production, labeling, and sale,” Cannabis Regulatory Commission Executive Director Jeff Brown said at the time.
It’s only been three months since shelf-stable products began production. By the end of the year, it’s entirely likely that New Jersey legal weed dispensaries will have as many cannabis drink options as they have eighth-ounces of marijuana flower.
Mike Davis has spent the last decade covering New Jersey local news, marijuana legalization, transportation and basically whatever else is going on at any given moment. Contact him at email@example.com or @byMikeDavis on Twitter.