How are THC Beverages Legal?

By marc brannigan

How are THC Beverages Legal?

For many, the sight of T-infused beverages lining the shelves of local stores might raise a few eyebrows. How can such products be legal? Let's dive into the intricacies of this burgeoning market.


First and foremost, let's distinguish between hemp and marijuana. With over two decades of experience in cannabis cultivation, I can attest that hemp is indeed cannabis. However, the crucial disparity lies in the federal definition: hemp contains less than 0.3% T. So, if both marijuana and hemp are essentially the same plant, what sets them apart? The answer is simple: T content. One plant has below .3% and one plant has above .3% T, but whether derived from hemp or marijuana, the T remains identical.


Now, onto the legality of hemp. The passage of the federal farm bill in 2014 and its subsequent amendment in 2018 effectively legalized hemp products nationwide. This begs the question: if hemp contains T and is federally sanctioned, does that mean T itself is federally legal? Yes. As long as T is extracted from hemp and the finished product contains less than 0.3% T on a dry weight basis. Its usage in products is federally permissible. To put it into perspective, if a product weighs 60 grams, only 0.3% of it, or 180mg of T, can be included. This is similar to consuming a substantial joint of 25% THC flower. In my opinion, people only need 5mg to 10mg to have a positive effect which is what we put in our cold brew coffee.


Now, armed with an understanding of legally derived T from hemp, it becomes clear how T beverages have found their place in the market. However, it's essential to note that while federal law permits such products, individual states may have divergent regulations, much like the patchwork of laws surrounding marijuana legalization across the country.


Turning our attention to the burgeoning T beverage market, it's intriguing to note that unexpected players like Minnesota are spearheading efforts to streamline regulations surrounding these products, making them more accessible to consumers.


The results of this evolving landscape are remarkable. With over 200 new SKUs introduced, T beverages now account for a notable 20% of sales in stores offering them. Surprisingly, the sales of T beverages at Total Wine and More rival those of traditional wine categories like merlot or chardonnay. Moreover, consumers are increasingly opting for T beverages over alcohol, signaling a shifting trend in consumption habits.


But what about the effects of T beverages? Much like traditional cannabis consumption, the effects vary depending on the product. For instance, a T-infused cold brew coffee might induce a sativa-like experience, characterized by energy, creativity, and a mood uplift. Conversely, a beverage containing T and flavoring may offer a more relaxing, indica-like sensation. Importantly, T beverages spare consumers from the dreaded hangover and sluggishness associated with alcohol consumption. Additionally, unlike alcohol, T boasts medicinal properties, further enhancing its appeal to health-conscious consumers.


In conclusion, the legalization of hemp-derived T has paved the way for a thriving market of T-infused beverages, reshaping consumer preferences and offering an alternative to traditional alcohol consumption. As regulations continue to evolve, the landscape of T beverages is poised for further growth and innovation.