Bloomberg reports that Coca-Cola could be the first major soft drink maker to tap into the legal marijuana market. While the company says "no decisions" have been made, it reportedly is investigating the possibility of integrating cannabidiol (CBD) oil, a non-psychoactive compound extracted from cannabis, into its drinks.
"We are closely watching the growth of non-psychoactive CBD as an ingredient in functional wellness beverages around the world," Coca-Cola spokesman Kent Landers tells Bloomberg.
Drinkable marijuana products are already on the market, but they appear to be nearing a major breakthrough.
"I think you're going to see a lot of innovation in this space, in terms of what kinds of drinks and orals are developed," Lance Anderson, a Texas-based attorney who works on marijuana branding and intellectual property, told me in July. "We are about to witness a true renaissance of the industry, and I look forward to it."
Marijuana-infused drinks essentially come in two varieties: those made with CBD and those made with THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of cannabis. Other products—including some beers, such as New Belgium's Hemporer HPA—are made with hemp to give them the smell and taste of marijuana, but without any measurable amounts of CBD or THC.
Bloomberg reports that Coca-Cola's interest in CBD-infused drinks includes the potential for beverages that ease inflammation, pain, and cramping.
While it is known primarily as a soda company, Coca-Cola owns a wide range of drink brands, including bottled waters, sports drinks, and coffees. It only makes sense to include marijuana-infused drinks, a potentially growing market, in that portfolio. (Don't forget that Coke, before becoming an iconic American soda, began life as a cocaine-infused beverage marketed as a pain reliever.)
Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, but drinks containing THC can be sold legally in dispensaries in states where recreational marijuana is legal. The market for CBD-infused drinks, like the ones Coca-Cola is potentially interested in manufacturing, may be significantly larger, since CBD products are legal in dozens of states for medical purposes and could be rescheduled or legalized at the federal level independent of other cannabis products. The Food and Drug Administration in June gave its approval to the the first cannabis-derived medicine, a CBD-oil substitute known as Epidiolex.
Even though there are no plans for specific drinks yet, the very fact that Coke is investigating the possibility of a CBD product shows how far the needle has swung on marijuana legalization. Our politics are lagging behind, but American culture is increasingly accepting of marijuana products in many forms, and those market signals are being received.
Taste the feeling, indeed.
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