Millennials and Gen Zers are not the same heavy drinkers as previous generations. Times are changing, and alcohol is falling out of favor. Perhaps this is due to new social constructs, people seeking healthier lifestyles, or more personal wellness knowledge—whatever the reason, the cannabis drink industry is benefiting.
There is a boom in sales of cannabis drinks that is not unfounded. The largest beer manufacturer in the world partnered with a Canadian marijuana company in 2018 to start producing cannabis drinks. This trend looks like it is due to continue for the foreseeable future, thanks to the many health benefits and uses.
So what’s the deal with cannabis drinks versus other edible cannabinoids? What are the benefits and risks? Is there a drink out there for you? Let’s get into it.
A Guide to Cannabis Drinks
Cannabis drinks can be perplexing and disorienting to navigate due to the sheer number of choices available. How does someone choose when there are literally hundreds of options? There are teas, sodas, energy drinks, coffees, juices, and a variety of other infusions.
The amount of choice is due to manufacturers’ ability to fine tune recipes and ingredients with cannabis additives. These concoctions are possible thanks to distillates, extracts, tinctures, and other concentrates. Basically, those are just a whole bunch of fancy words to use for the “secret ingredients.”
Drink manufacturers can be incredibly secretive about their production process. Each company will have its own ingredients and methods that are unique to them. The part of the process that is more general and easiest to explain goes like this:
A cannabis concentrate is created or obtained by the drink manufacturer. In order to get this concentrated cannabis extract, a chemical process occurs (such as C02 extraction) to bring the raw plant ingredients into a liquid form. The cannabis liquid can then be added to the product after undergoing a purification process.
The extract is then purified or refined using a method such as distillation. This turns an extract into a distillate through vacuum and heat control. This process is as complicated as it sounds and requires specialized equipment. The distillate can be added directly to the drink product.
Mix It All Together
Cannabis distillate is not water-soluble, so if added to a drink without any lipids or fats to bond to, then it will just float on top of the solution. To avoid this, manufacturers will mix the distillate with the other ingredients and emulsify it. Emulsification is a common term in the food industry, which is basically a scientific process to blend ingredients. This means the distillate will no longer separate from the other ingredients and instead will be bonded with them.
How Do Cannabis Drinks Work in the Body?
Drinking cannabis is a different experience than smoking it. This is primarily due to how the body absorbs smoke, foods, and liquids. Smoke is absorbed via the lungs, while food and drink are absorbed by the stomach. The stomach typically absorbs things through a longer process. The effects are therefore often more delayed than if you smoked or dabbed.
Where drinks differ from other edible cannabinoids is that they are absorbed in another manner as well. When you drink something, it sloshes around in your body before being digested. The interaction with your mouth, especially sublingually, can decrease the waiting time for effects to take place. The chemical properties of cannabis as a fluid are thus quicker-acting than they are as a solid food.
Depending on the desired effects, the user can experience various effects from the specific cannabinoids used in the products. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found naturally in marijuana, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
If the user wants to experience more psychoactive effects, a drink containing THC would be a good choice. If someone like a sports athlete wants to be relaxed, to help recover after a workout, then a CBD drink may be the cannabis drink of choice.
A drink that contains THC can also contain CBD or other cannabinoids. Again, this goes back to the amount of variety available. While extracts and distillates usually isolate certain cannabinoids, there are so many different processes. Some can be closer to the original plant, while others can be farther removed and isolate one single property.
The cannabinoids and other chemical compounds (like terpenes) react within the body in much the same way as other methods of consumption. The body and brain respond to the chemicals and elicit the effects. The timeline of when the effects start to be felt is the main difference .
What Are The Benefits?
Due to the wide umbrella of cannabis drink options, the benefits are vast. When compared to alcohol, weed beverages provide a healthier alternative. They still allow the user to socialize and relax, but you don’t have to deal with a potential hangover the following day.
Unlike alcohol, except perhaps absinthe, cannabis beverages can also be psychoactive. This can add another fun dimension to social drinking. Drinks with high THC content provide an experience similar to having edible cannabinoids but with lower caloric intake. Plus, you get hydrated at the same time. What could be better?
Cannabis drinks taste good and are a great alternative for people who do not want to smoke weed. Going back to five or 10 years, cannabis in drink form had a bad reputation. The products that were on the market had poor taste and were not made in the same manner as they are today. The technology has improved, and now the flavours are tasty. Oftentimes you can’t even tell the difference between a non-cannabis drink and one with cannabis in it!
Let’s emphasize an earlier point: There are so many options available. For anything you drink today, there is a cannabis-infused equivalent. If for some reason you don’t find that to be true, then you can make your own by buying a tincture online and adding it to the drink. There really is something for everyone.
Are There Any Risks with Cannabis Drinks and Other Edible Cannabinoids?
The main risk associated with cannabis drinks is overdoing it. You can get incredibly high from drinks that have high concentrates of cannabinoids or by consuming a large volume. This is really no different from other methods (i.e., smoking weed, consuming edible cannabinoids). You need to be conscious about dosage. Wait a little bit longer than you would if you vape or smoke, ut not as long as if eating an edible cannabinoid product because the effects will take a little bit of time to kick in.
If in doubt, go slowly. Drink a little at a time, and drink more as you go for the desired effects. Also, remember that you are consuming a liquid, so don’t get so high that you can’t manage the actual drinking! No one wants to choke on water.
Other associated risks are the same as you would find with any other type of cannabis product. Cannabis is safe recreationally and medicinally. As the world realizes this, more and more laws and stigma surrounding it will continue to change. It wouldn’t be surprising to one day see cannabis drinks in vending machines in different parts of the world, alongside a can of Coca Cola.