Sunday, August 21, 2022
This lengthy New York Times article, headlined "Weed Drinks Are a Buzzy Alcohol Substitute. But Are They Safe?", provides a useful overview of "weed drinks" with an emphasis what we do not know about a growing consumer product sector. I recommend the piece in full, and here are a few excerpts:
According to BDSA, a market research firm in Colorado that specializes in legal cannabis, dollar sales of marijuana beverages are up by around 65 percent from 2020 to 2021 in the 12 states they track. In California, the state with the largest market for weed drinks, the number of cannabis beverages available nearly doubled from 2020 to 2021, growing to 747 distinct products, according to Headset, a company that collects and analyzes data on cannabis....
Cannabis-infused beverages are often branded as a healthier alternative to alcohol — “No painful days after drinking or regrets,” a tagline on Cann’s site reads. These kinds of drinks carry a connotation of health, said Emily Moquin, a food and beverage analyst at Morning Consult. They tout themselves as “hangover-free” and without the high calories of alcohol; they claim to help you feel “focused,” balanced, relaxed. One cannabis beverage company even suggests pairing their drinks with a spa day.
But experts worry that products like weed drinks are becoming more popular than health research can keep up with, leaving big questions about how best to consume them and what impacts they may have on the brain and body....
“It’s really a Wild West of products out there,” Dr. MacKillop said. Some drinks contain just THC, or CBD or both, and drinks on the market vary vastly in how many milligrams of these compounds they contain.
While there is no standard unit for THC product potency, Dr. MacKillop said, most experts in the field consider five milligrams of THC to be a typical single dose, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse sets it as standard unit of research.
According to Headset, over half of cannabis beverage units sold in the U.S. in 2021 contained 100 milligrams of THC, an amount that could significantly intoxicate or impair the average person....
Because weed drinks are so new, they are “an incredibly understudied class of cannabis products,” Dr. MacKillop said. There aren’t yet robust studies on how drinkable cannabis products affect the body long term, Dr. Vandrey added, and it’s unclear how the health effects — positive or negative — of marijuana translate into a drinkable beverage.
“The cannabis industry has evolved much faster than the data,” he said. “This is just another great example of that.”