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Are cans draining THC potency from cannabis beverages?

Published on February 20, 2020 · Last updated July 28, 2020
5second/Adobe Stock

The canna-beverage boom hasn’t happened yet, but with major beverage conglomerates betting big on infused drinks, Canadian consumers should expect to see the serious launch of a variety of THC- and CBD-infused soft drinks, juices, teas, and beer-and-wine clones begin soon and continue for the foreseeable future.

With multiple billion-dollar licensed parties about to launch beverage lines, the timing couldn’t be worse to discover the lining of aluminium cans may actually absorb the active cannabinoids in cannabis beverages, with the potential to reduce potency almost completely.

At issue in particular are cannabis beverages brewed using nanoemulsion technology, a widely promoted but sometimes controversial process of making cannabinoids both water soluble and faster-acting by breaking them down into smaller particles. Scientists theorize emulsified cannabinoid particles in a pressurized beverage can stick to the liner of commercial aluminium cans used to protect the can from rusting and the contents from taking on a metallic taste. The other reason the liner is in place, ironically, is to protect shelf-stability.

In the US, the product was first identified by brewer Lagunitas, who was brewing a line of cannabis beverages.

“The loss was horrible,” Harold Han told Yahoo Finance. The founder and Chief Science Officer of US nanoemulsion company Vertosa was present when Lagunitas tested its emulsions against its cans.

Tinley was another US cannabis beverage producer facing the same problem.

Their CEO Jeff Maser told Yahoo Finance, “When I say there is less cannabis, there is no cannabis left. It’s literally 97% absorption into the can after a few months. Guys are saying they solved that problem. Nobody really has.”

The extent to which licensed parties hoping to debut cannabinoid-infused beverage products in the coming weeks and months were aware of the problem with can liners is unclear—particularly since no canned or bottled cannabis beverages (or really any, other than infused tea bags) have yet entered the Canadian legal market.

Marketing materials for Hexo and Molson Coors’ joint beverage venture Truss show products in Tetra-Pac packaging, while Fluent Beverage Company, Tilray’s joint venture with Budweiser parent Anheuser-Busch InBev has revealed none of its proposed packaging. THC BioMed’s still-unreleased beverage THC Kiss appears marketed in plastic bottles.

Canopy, meanwhile, mysteriously delayed the launch of its line of beverages in mid-January, but initial marketing materials show several Canopy beverage products were planned to be released in cans. Canopy’s largest shareholder is Constellation Brands, whose many properties include Corona and Modelo beers, Svedka vodka, and Kim Crawford wines.

While LPs don’t want to fail on beverages, the presence of Fortune 500 beverage companies makes the game even more serious. All are looking to make up for declining beer sales whose slide cannabis legalization made have sped up, while in the case of Constellation, the company has invested $5-billion in Canopy and wants very much for its cannabis beverages to make a serious impact on the Canadian market. (In December, some analysts speculated Constellation would buy Canopy outright in part due to Canopy’s focus on making beverages central to its legalization 2.0 offerings.)

Beverages may face an uphill challenge, as in the US market they represent only a tiny shard of market share. Yet the US cannabis market has no comparable force to industry megaliths Constellation, Anheuser-Busch InBev, and Molson Coors.

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Jesse B. Staniforth
Jesse B. Staniforth
Jesse Staniforth reports on cannabis, food safety, and Indigenous issues. He is the former editor of WeedWeek Canada.
View Jesse B. Staniforth's articles
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