A New Kind Of High Life: Cannabis-Infused Drinks

It’s time the beverage world experienced a shake-up, and cannabis is here to fill that need.
Photograph courtesy of Highly Casual

When marijuana products became legal for recreational purchase and consumption in Michigan in 2018, a new opportunity opened up for creative entrepreneurs and bartenders: cannabis beverages.

This doesn’t mean, though, that cannabis-infused drinks are available at every bar and retail outlet, nor does it mean that all cannabis drinks will get you high. There’s a crucial difference between the two types of cannabis beverage available in the state.

Beverages infused with cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD, do not contain tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. THC is the chemical compound in the cannabis plant that causes the relaxation and euphoria — the “high” — that results from consuming sufficient amounts.

In Michigan, it’s legal to consume both CBD-infused and THC-infused beverages so long as they don’t also contain alcohol. CBD beverages have been on the market for a few years now and have become popular with consumers who are looking to relax but aren’t interested in getting high or drunk. This is especially true of younger consumers: A recent report shows that Gen Z drinks 20 percent less alcohol per capita than their millennial elders.

Tia Fletcher, owner of Bumbo’s Bar in Hamtramck, has found the four different types of CBD beverages she offers — alongside her other nonalcoholic options — popular.

“I think there’s less peer pressure to drink and more interest in personal wellness, especially among the younger generations,” she says. “Drinking alcohol isn’t for everyone. … It’s nice that people now have the options socially.”

A popular drink choice at Bumbo’s is CBD sparkling water flavored with citrus or berries.

CBD has the potential to reduce anxiety, stress, and pain, but research remains unclear on whether the amount present in most drinks on the market would produce any effect. Still, many people who consume CBD drinks laud their relaxing effect and swear by their capacity to ease social anxiety, rendering nights out more fun and comfortable for those who prefer a nonalcoholic social lubricant.

Since they don’t contain THC, beverages infused with the nonpsychoactive CBD are regulated in ways similar to alcoholic beverages. They’re only available from vendors that sell alcohol, such as bars and liquor stores.

Tim Costello, co-owner of 8 Degrees Plato beer store in Midtown, offers many canned CBD beverages from Little Saints, which debuted at the 2021 Movement festival in Detroit. The drinks come in various flavors, including Spicy Margarita, Negroni Spritz, Paloma, and Ginger Mule.

“It’s a great alternative,” he says, for those who don’t want to partake much in drinking. “It’s a nice drink, and you’re not going to get high from it.”

If something a bit more edgy is the goal, THC-infused beverages can also be purchased in Michigan. Since they do have a psychoactive component, though, these are much more strictly regulated and therefore tougher to find. They can only be purchased from a licensed recreational marijuana dispensary. And THC-infused beverages cannot be derived from beer, because even “nonalcoholic” beer still contains up to 0.05 percent alcohol by volume.

Most THC beverages on the market today pack in somewhere around 2 to 3 milligrams per serving; the federal government defines one dose of THC as 10 milligrams.

In November 2022, recreational cannabis retailer Pleasantrees and Andrew Blake of Blake’s Hard Cider Co. teamed up. Their joint venture, Emerald Canning Partners, makes 12-ounce cans of Highly Casual seltzer, infused with 2 milligrams of THC, in strawberry-watermelon, lemon-lime, and blueberry-pineapple flavors. Drinks like these, including other popular Michigan-based products such as Happi, are less of a steamroller hit of marijuana and more of a carefully measured microdose.

Much like consumers of CBD-infused beverages then, even the THC drinkers expect a gentle, smooth buzz rather than a massive high. CBD and THC beverages, when enjoyed in moderation, simply offer a new alternative to alcohol for responsible consumers.

This story is part of the April 2023 issue of Hour Detroit. Read more in our Digital Edition.