A surge in popularity of THC drinks
As legalization spreads from state to state across the U.S., it’s clear to see that the way we consume cannabis is evolving rapidly. THC-infused drinks are experiencing a surge in popularity that reaches far beyond the usual demographic boundaries. By appealing to people of all ages, class structure, cultural backgrounds, and economic means, drinkables are poised to become the next big thing in the world of cannabis.
In this article I’m going to examine how cultural shifts, health-conscious choices, and the quest for new, sophisticated ways to enjoy cannabis are driving this trend.
The THC drinkables revolution
While the art of infusing and drinking cannabis beverages is nothing new, seeing someone in your local bar sipping on a cold can of THC-infused seltzer is a novel sight, especially to those of us living in prohibition states.
When I’m visiting a cannabis-legal state, smoking a joint in public still feels pretty foreign and wild to me. So, you can imagine my surprise when, in a rural Wisconsin bar, I spotted an elegantly-dressed, middle-aged woman nonchalantly enjoying her THC-infused drink… as if it were a glass of fine wine.
The availability and variety of THC drinks has expanded massively over the last five years, presumably in direct response to the growing demands of consumers, looking for new ways that cannabis can be enjoyed in social settings.
And the product supply extends beyond traditional hemp and cannabis companies.
Iconic brewing giants, like Lagunitas and Pabst, recognized the potential for diversification within their product offering and released their own lines of THC beverages in 2018 and 2020, respectively. More recently, smaller, independent breweries have also been embracing this trend, offering THC-infused mocktails, seltzers, and sodas, alongside their usual craft beers, ciders, and spirits.
As THC drinks continue to take the U.S. by storm, what are the main factors driving this change?
Legalization and cultural acceptance
One of the main reasons that THC drinks have become so popular, in the last five years or so, is the changing attitudes towards cannabis in general.
In the last decade we’ve witnessed over 20 states legalize recreational cannabis use, leading to a gradual acceptance and normalization of cannabis consumption in those areas. And the stigma surrounding cannabis use continues to decrease with every year that goes by, as more and more states take steps to decriminalize cannabis.
Without this increasing cultural acceptance, innovative products like THC-infused drinks wouldn’t have been able to thrive and enter mainstream consciousness.
These brands present THC-infused drinks as viable and acceptable beverage options in social settings, as well as offer customers approachable entry points into the world of cannabis.
Introducing THC drinks into the bar setting was a cunningly strategic move. After all, who’s going to judge you for enjoying a THC-infused seltzer, when they’ve got an equally intoxicating beverage in their own hands?
The THC drinks market offers consumers a discreet, healthy, and socially acceptable method of consuming cannabis in public and social settings, widening their appeal to a broader and more diverse audience.
Health & wellness trends
Another significant contributing factor to the popularity of THC drinkables is the growing emphasis on health and wellness.
People are becoming more conscious of what they put into their bodies, as indicated by the sheer number of people turning to plant-based diets and herbal medicines. So, it makes sense that there’s also a growing number of people looking for alternatives to traditional vices like drinking alcohol and smoking.
Research conducted by the Brightfield Group1 suggests that around 60% of Americans are drinking less in 2023 than they used to. Although, if you narrow this statistic down to only include these “Wellness Seeker Personas”, the percentage of people drinking less alcohol (than previously) increases to 72%.
Choosing THC-infused drinks over smoking eliminates risk of lung irritation and exposure to carcinogens and choosing THC drinks over alcohol greatly reduces calorie intake, while offering a more controlled and predictable experience.
This makes THC drinks a more attractive option for people seeking a way to wind down and enjoy a mild, euphoric experience, without compromising their overall health and wellness goals.
If you look at the range of THC drinkables on the market, you’ll find an option for almost every taste, which helps encourage a sense of excitement and experimentation among consumers who are eager to try something new and different.
From cannabis-infused teas, coffees, energy drinks, and sodas, to ready-made THC mocktails, seltzers, and tonics, there really is something for everyone. From 2mg THC sodas, appealing to newcomers looking for a light introduction to cannabis, to 50mg THC seltzers, appealing to connoisseurs with a higher tolerance and more sophisticated palette.
Precise dosage control
Another reason THC-infused drinks may be increasing in popularity is the fact that they offer more precise dosing control than some other methods of consumption. When you’re smoking or vaping THC products, the effects can be rapid, intense, and unpredictable.
THC drinkables, on the other hand, are crafted to contain a specific amount of THC, clearly indicated on the packaging, and provide a more gradual and predictable experience.
This control and ease of dosing will appeal to new and experienced consumers in both the recreational and medicinal markets, as it allows customers to choose a product with a potency that aligns with their desired experience.
Socially acceptable and discreet
Consuming a THC-infused drink is also fairly inconspicuous, unlike smoking and vaping which can emit pungent and distinctive odors, potentially attracting unwanted attention. This discretion adds to their appeal as they make it easier for people to enjoy cannabis in social settings without fear of judgment or scrutiny.
You can also enjoy a THC-infused drink without any specialized equipment or paraphernalia, making them accessible to a much wider audience.
Social aspect of drinking
Many other forms of THC consumption offer discreet and precise dosage control, including edibles, but as cannabis consumption continues to move out of the shadows and into the public eye, drinkables may be ideally situated to take over a larger portion of the growing cannabis market.
Beverages have long been used as a central point in social gatherings, to help form bonds and celebrate, and drinking continues to be a popular social activity for many people. There’s no denying that THC drinkables fit perfectly into these social settings and, similar to toasting with champagne or sharing cocktails at the bar, THC drinks are able to offer a communal experience that can enhance group bonding.
My final thoughts
The THC drinkables market has not only attracted established players, but also many enthusiastic newcomers, which demonstrates the profound impact of this market’s growth.
State legalization efforts have helped remove a lot of the stigma associated with cannabis use, and THC drinks are one example of how the market is adapting and evolving to meet contemporary customer demands.
Health-conscious trends are driving consumers towards more wholesome alternatives, while the diverse product choice, discrete method of consumption, and precise dosage control, offered by THC-infused beverages, contribute to their broad appeal.
Given their unique blend of culture, ritual, convenience, and customization, I believe that THC drinks will continue to be a prominent and growing segment of the cannabis industry. If the rise of THC drinkables is anything to go on, the coming years promise an exciting reshaping of the cannabis market and I, for one, can’t wait to see what it looks like.
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