Why Cannabis Beverages are a Good Bet

Seth Goldberg
Seth A. Goldberg

Constellation Brands, Boston Beer, Molson Coors, PepsiCo, Jones are some of the beverage companies betting on drinks with THC or CBD, adding them to their beverage product lines, as are cannabis drink makers like CANN Social Tonics, Keef, and Artet.  Here’s why:

Just about everyone enjoys socializing with a drink in their hand. Wherever people are gathering, from couples to small groups to large events, whether at a bar, cocktail party, friends/family get together, a game or other outing, most people have a drink in their hand.  Years ago cigarettes were as ubiquitous in social settings, but those days are long gone – smoking, because of its health effects and smell, has become obsolete if not shunned.   The same stigmas seem even more pronounced when it comes to smoking or vaping cannabis, plus there is the added stigma of “getting high,” which, for some reason, as a general matter, seems less socially acceptable than “getting drunk.”  Cannabis drinks are not burdened by these stigmas.

Moreover, just like alcoholic beverages, cannabis drinks allow the consumer more control over their psychoactive experience.  Just as consumers use beer, wine, and spirits for a range of intoxication, cannabis drinks can be consumed in the same way.  A few sips of a cannabis beverage with 10 mgs of THC may be enough for some to get a slight euphoric buzz that does not interfere with their socializing like a beer or two might give someone a slight buzz that does not interfere with their socializing.  In this way, cannabis beverages stand in contrast to high-THC products like vapes, butter, and shatter, just as shots of tequilla, vodka, and jager stand in contrast to beer and wine.

Cannabis drinks are a good bet because they largely avoid the stigmas of smoking and getting high, and, in so doing, make THC and CBD accessible to consumers who have withheld from using cannabis because of them.  Add to that the flexibility and control of micro-dosing, and cannabis drinks become more appealing to more people in more social situations.  This is why beverage companies and cannabis companies are betting on cannabis drinks.

 

Interest Rising in Cannabis Beverages

Seth Goldberg
Seth A. Goldberg

Beverage companies are looking to enter the cannabis sector. An article in FoodDive about Jones Soda entering the sector quotes Duane Morris partner Seth Goldberg:

Seth Goldberg, a team lead for Duane Morris’ cannabis industry group, said more companies are recognizing beverages as a way to expand their product offerings and connect with a new segment of consumers. Unlike smoking and vaping marijuana, consuming it through a drink is more publicly accepted and allows the individual to enjoy a smaller amount of the drug — making the liquid form more appealing to beverage and cannabis consumers alike.

Seth co-authored an article in Cannabis Industry Journal with Michael Bronstein, president of the American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp (ATACH) discussing the fast-growing cannabis beverage sector.

Soft drinks, beer, juice, tea, coffee and bottled waters are major categories of the beverage industry, valued at approximately $1.5 trillion globally and $150 billion in the U.S. It’s no secret beverage companies have long eyed the next big growth opportunity in the cannabis market. Beverage makers, large and small, are now experimenting ‒ some even bringing to market ‒ cannabis-infused drinks in each of these categories.

Cannabis Beverages are on Fire! — THC Limits

In the second edition, and first substantive blog, in my series on Cannabis Beverages, entitled Cannabis Beverages are on Fire!, I am writing about THC limits, which is one of the hot-button issues for cannabis beverage producers and consumers.  Given its psychoactive effect, there is no denying that the amount of THC in a beverage should be measurable and limited so that consumers can safely ingest them and obtain the experience they are seeking. This means that a serving size of a beverage might have a THC limit, and so might there be a total container limit.

Cannabis beverage manufacturers are not starting from scratch in this area, however. Popular THC serving size limits in edibles and similar products include 5mg and 10mg could likely be applied to THC beverages, resulting in a total container limit based on the container size and number of servings. The current offerings of cannabis-infused drinks vary and the markets within states offer a wide variety of different THC levels. For example, Cann, a bestselling THC drink, contains 2mg THC and 4mg CBD per 12 ounce can. Cann is available in over 200 California dispensaries. Similarly, Tomato Jane drinks have 10mg THC per 12 ounce bottle. Comparatively, Matt’s High Soda offers an infused beverage called Uncle Arnie’s Iced Tea Lemonade with 100mg of THC per bottle—although each bottle is considered to be 10 servings.  As the market for cannabis beverages develops, THC limits are certain to be an issue that gets a lot of attention.  In the next installment of this series I’ll touch on cannabis beverage ingredients and labeling.

Cannabis Beverages are on Fire!

Want to know where the cannabis industry is going? How about the beverage industry? The answer is cannabis beverages! The hottest new product segment in both markets. Don’t believe me… just run an internet search for “cannabis beverages” and you’ll see cannabis-infused beverages tied to major beverage companies like Constellation Brands, such as Canopy Growth’s Quatreu water, and Molson Coors, with its Truss brand, and dozens of  smaller cannabis beverage brands, such as Forth, Kikoko, and Recess. 

A cannabis beverage generally contains either THC derived from marijuana grown pursuant to state adult-use marijuana and/or medical marijuana laws, or containing CBD derived from marijuana or derived from hemp grown pursuant to a state’s hemp laws.  Given the federal prohibition on marijuana, the federal legality of hemp, and the FDA’s current restriction of CBD in foods and beverages, the federal and state regulatory framework for producing, distributing, and consuming cannabis beverages is complex, to say the least.  In the coming weeks I will be covering in a series of short blogs some of these issues, including product labeling, THC and CBD percentages, serving size, and social consumption.

Pennsylvania’s Cannabis Market: What Investors And Entrepreneurs Need To Know

Duane Morris partner Seth Goldberg was quoted in an article on Benzinga:

Seth Goldberg, a partner and team leader at Philadelphia-based law firm Duane Morris‘ cannabis department, said PA’s program has remained stable during its three years of operation. He added that the state’s marijuana department has “worked out the administrative program kinks” to create a smooth-running program.

Goldberg highlighted achievements, including over 400,000 registered MMJ patients and soaring tax revenue, both of which help boost public support for the program.</blockquote?

To read the full text of the article, please visit the Benzinga website.

SAFE Banking Act Reintroduced in the House with Broad Support

Seth Goldberg
Seth A. Goldberg

With the explicit support of the American Banking Association, and after passing in the House during the last congress, the SAFE Banking Act was reintroduced in the House on March 18, and a companion Act is expected to be introduced in the Senate next week. The proposed legislation would allow financial institutions to provide their services to cannabis – marijuana and hemp – clients without fear of federal sanctions. The proposed legislation enjoys bi-partisan support, and is in “position A” for passing in 2021.  

Given the billions of dollars of revenues, including tax dollars, generated by the industry, which are generated by cannabis companies and companies that provide services to the industry, cannabis banking is truly a public concern. The very laws that seek to create transparency as to the public fisc, such as the Bank Secrecy Act, have forced cannabis to be a cash business, which means not all of the cannabis dollars may be accounted for as in other industries, thereby undermining the objectives of those laws.  The SAFE Banking Act would resolve those concerns by allowing core and ancillary companies to utilize all of the electronic banking, checking, payroll, and accounting functionality that businesses in all other industries enjoy. There is no question the passage of this legislation would provide a game-changing boost to the cannabis space.

Cannabis – Proposed Federal Bill, the CLAIM Act, to ease access to insurance for Cannabis Related Businesses

Earlier this week (March 18, 2021), U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (R-KY), Bob Menendez (D – NJ) and Rand Paul (R – KY) introduced a law, the Clarifying Law Around Insurance of Marijuana Act of 2021 (the “CLAIM Act“) to enable access to insurance coverage for cannabis businesses.

Named the “Clarifying Law Around Insurance of Marijuana Act of 2021“, the bill is intended to ease federal restrictions around insuring businesses related to cannabis growth, processing and dispensing.

Per NJ BIZ, 44 states have enacted some type of legal cannabis – whether medical, recreational or both.  This past election season saw voters in New Jersey, Arizona, Montana, Mississippi and South Dakota approve legal adult use cannabis; and last month, New Jersey enacted legislation to officially legalize and regulate adult use cannabis.

The goal of the CLAIM Act according to Senator Paul is to stop legitimate businesses from being shut out from obtaining basic business protections.

Insurance Products – Under the proposed CLAIM Act, cannabis businesses would be permitted full and legal access to insurance products such as worker’s compensation, property, casualty and title insurance. Currently,  state-authorized cannabis businesses are often denied access to the insurance market because the businesses could be prosecuted or face penalties under the Controlled Substances Act (a federal law).

Policy Limitations – Under the proposed CLAIM Act, insurers couldn’t be penalized or discouraged from providing coverage to a state-sanctioned and regulated cannabis business or ancillary business; and policies could not be limited solely because the insurer engaged with a cannabis-related business.

Supervisory Actions – Under the proposed CLAIM Act, according to NJ Biz, the federal government wouldn’t be able to take any adverse or corrective supervisory action on a policy to an owner or operator of a cannabis-related business or real estate or equipment that is leased to a cannabis-related business, solely because the owner or operator is engaged with cannabis or cannabis-related business.

The CLAIM Act represents a big step for cannabis related and ancillary businesses and would enable them to more easily access insurance related products that up until this point have been denied to them.

Duane Morris has an over 62 person Cannabis Practice Group that focuses on regulatory licensing, funds creation and raising, structuring, real estate related lease and ownership issues and intellectual property matters in the Cannabis arena.

If you have questions regarding the above post, please do not hesitate to contact Brad A. Molotsky, Tracy Gallegos, Christiane Schuman Campbell, Paul Josephson or Seth Goldberg or any other attorney you regularly contact at the firm.

Be well and stay safe.

FTC Approves Consent Orders Against CBD Manufacturers

Seth Goldberg
Seth A. Goldberg

As I previously wrote, in December 2020 the FTC announced consent agreements reached with CBD manufacturers 1) Bionatrol Health, LLC; 2) Epichouse LLC (First Class Herbalist CBD); 3) CBD Meds, Inc.; 4) HempmeCBD; 5) Reef Industries, Inc.; and 6) Steves Distributing, LLC, in connection with a “crackdown” the FTC termed “Operation CBDeceit” for allegedly spurious health claims. The FTC today followed up that announcement with an announcement that those consent orders have been approved by the FTC in unanimous votes as to each. These manufacturers will now be required to comply with the consent orders, which could include fines and ceasing to make “unsupported health claims” in connection with the marketing of their products. 

Bipartisan Adult-Use Bill To Be Introduced in Pennsylvania

Seth Goldberg
Seth A. Goldberg

Senators Dan Laughlin (R) and Sharif Street (D) are introducing legislation that would legalize marijuana for adult recreational use in Pennsylvania. This is the first time a republican senator has backed such a bill. The proposed legislation will attempt to generate revenue for the commonwealth and to promote social equity by way of increasing the number of licenses to operate, imposing a 6% sales tax, and imposing a 10% excise tax that would go toward a Cannabis Business Development Fund to provide aid, grants, and technical assistance to businesses and individuals in areas that have been disproportionately impacted by criminal prosecution for cannabis violations. Expungement of cannabis crimes would also be available.

Laughlin’s pragmatic views may encourage his republican colleagues in PA’s legislature to join him. As Laughlin stated during a press conference: “Our proposal prioritizes safety and social equity. And furthermore, it will let Pennsylvania’s robust agricultural industry participate in marijuana cultivation.” And both Laughlin and Street encouraged PA legislators to keep pace with lawmakers in New Jersey and New York, stating in their co-sponsorship memo: “This year our neighbors in New Jersey have signed adult use marijuana into law and our neighbors in New York are likely to legalize. It is our duty to taxpayers to seize the initiative and legalize marijuana concurrently with bordering states. Failure to do so risks permanently ceding hundreds of millions of dollars of new tax revenue as well as thousands of jobs at a time when taxpayers can least afford it.”

 

NJ – Governor Murphy signs Adult Use Cannabis Bill – Now Adult Use Cannabis is Law of the Garden State

Earlier today, February 22, 2021, NJ Governor Murphy signed legislation to create an adult use/recreational marijuana marketplace, decriminalize cannabis and loosen certain penalties for underage possession of the drug and alcohol.  NJ joins 13 other states (and the District of Columbia) which have legalized adult use marijuana including Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington and Washington, D. C. 

The Assembly and Senate passed a compromise bill to address most of Governor’s concerns that had held up the signing of the Bills – these areas mostly focused on easing penalties on underage possession of both alcohol and marijuana.

Under the law, NJ adults may legally purchase and possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana; retail sales will be taxed with 70% of such revenue being dedicated to lower income communities; a Cannabis Regulatory Commission will be established and oversee licensing; NJ will allocate 37 new grower licenses over the next 2 years; and currently licensed medical cannabis retail operations will be eligible to sell adult use cannabis.

The firm has an active Cannabis and Hemp practice, with over 65 lawyers who counsel businesses and investors in the regulatory and licensing area, the funds formation and fund raising arena, the leasing and acquisition of real estate fronts and the patents, trademarks and IP area of the cannabis and hemp industry. 

We can be reached at any of the following email addresses and will direct your inquiry to the appropriate person within our Cannabis and Hemp Taskforce – bamolotsky@duanemorris.com; tagallegos@duanemorris.com; ppjosephson@duanemorris.com; or sagoldberg@duanemorris.com.

Be safe.

 

© 2009- Duane Morris LLP. Duane Morris is a registered service mark of Duane Morris LLP.

The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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