There are moments in life that seem so surreal that you aren't really sure they are actually happening.
This was my past Thursday at the Cannabis Drinks Expo and after-expo event.
As you know from my previous post, I was one of the lucky exhibitors for the first global Cannabis Drinks Expo. If you read my previous post, you know that I had a number of questions. To summarize: I knew nothing about cannabis. So I was 100% ready to learn all I could about this new and growing category in beverage.
I arrived at the expo, not really knowing what to anticipate. Booth tables decked out in tie-dye? Grateful Dead posters? A snack table laden with munchies? Again, ya’ll forgive me if this is stereotypical. All I know about cannabis came from movies. I did decide to sport my favorite and only blue pineapple sundress, which seemed entirely appropriate, all things considered, and absolutely hysterical to me. Pineapple Express anyone?
When I breezed through the doors of the expo, I was met with a wide variety of folks. Business types in suits preparing for a presentation, sales professionals in their logoed polos, a few definitely within the tie-dye crowd, and a myriad of others that looked, well completely normal. It didn’t look anything unlike the many expos I’ve been to before. Except all the event posters had pot leaves on them.
Now before you ask, this was a non-sampling event. No THC products were allowed on the expo floor, and anyone sampling beverages had to use samples sans THC. A few were very disheartened to learn this.
For the majority of the event I was manning the booth. I did not get to attend the lectures much to my distress, not because it wasn’t possible, but more cause that’s how expos go. You get caught up talking to potential customers, lose track of time, and before you know it you’ve missed the discussion on Cannabis and mixed cocktails you had been meaning to attend. It happens. However, having the opportunity to chat with everyone at the expo did give me some answers to my questions.
The percent THC and how it impacts the drinker depends on a number of different factors. Tolerance, weight, if you’ve eaten etc. are all factors considered with how your body absorbs THC. It’s a lot like drinking alcohol. Some have a higher tolerance than others. Since I had never tried anything previously, the general advice was to take it slow, but that I would eventually feel the buzz much like you do when having alcohol. Furthermore, different strains of cannabis would have different effects. This information actually came from my Uber driver who was incredibly well informed. For example, the Indica strain (strain, leaf, brand?) usually brought on a more mellow experience and was more likely to be the kind to put you to sleep, while Sativa was a more energizing strain, more likely to give you some happy pep and probably not the best to take before bed.
As to all my questions on legal standings, it seems to be generally understood that what is on the books today is changing by tomorrow. Essentially the legal scope of this industry is by no means stable, so everyone is kind of just rolling with the punches. However, what I did hear is that how much THC or CBD in the product is managed by an allowed amount of mg per container. So container size does somehow dictate the percentage. Draft is still not an option yet mostly because on premise consumption isn’t allowed, but in San Francisco they have begun to allow consumption lounges where product can be purchased and consumed on site. So I wouldn’t consider having draft as an option an unlikely possibility in the near future. Though at the moment no one seems to have really attempted to dispense on draft, so there still is some testing to be done.
Overall the event was an excellent source of information, but the aspect of what impact taste would have on the beverage with the THC was better answered later that night. I was invited to an after-expo event held at one of those consumption lounges. So I went, bringing my family with me which already seemed like an unlikely start to the night. My mother was particularly excited to attend, which did not go along with my high school experience. Times must be a changing.
We arrived at the consumption lounge and dispensary called Moe Greens. There was a bouncer outside like a number of bars I’ve walked into before, a couple laughing hysterically clinging to a tree while their friends waited for them to calm down, and a man attempting to get on a bicycle with minimal success. Yep like several bars I’ve been to before. We walked through the door and were greeted by a sparkling entryway, decked out in gold, green, and wood walled seventies glory. A concierge checked each of us in. Behind that was the sales counter, well lit with all their flowers, edibles, topicals, and beverages displayed behind the counter and on an iPad. The cashiers were patiently waiting to guide you through the world of cannabis. It was nice. Not sure what I expected but it wasn’t this. We walked to the end and turned in our invitation and were promptly handed a THC infused nonalcoholic beer from the event sponsor, Two Roots. They were offering a lager, IPA, blonde, and wheat. We each chose a separate one so we could try all of their flavors. Then the host took us into the consumption lounge. This room smelled like what I expected.
As the cloud of smoke cleared, we could see there were people seated at tables and standing around socializing. Okay it wasn’t that smoky, but it was definitely in the air. On the tables there were caddies filled with grinders, lighters, pipes, and papers. There were also warning signs of what to do if you experienced a bad high, and when it would probably be a bad idea to partake. The host welcomed us in and then offered us a joint. It was totally acceptable for where we were but just seemed odd to me. Also none of us smoke, so we politely declined. This brings me to the first sip of the beverage. I had the blonde which was a touch hoppy for a blonde to my taste buds, but that may have been the THC talking. I tried a sip of the lager, which was definitely more malt forward than the blonde had been. Each beverage was only about 5% THC, but I nursed mine, very much aware that I was a newbie and not wanting anything on the warning cards to happen to me. After a few sips, my mouth was dried out, which is apparently a symptom of the THC consumption. Dry-mouth. The water cooler by the wall made all the more sense.
I felt like a fly on the wall, just observing as the couple at the table next to us packed and lit the pipe, blowing a big cloud of smoke above them. My dad and boyfriend had already finished their drinks and were happily people watching. My mother was the social butterfly that she has always been, talking to several people from the expo about CBD and THC. It seemed odd. Surreal in a way. Then in walked my boss and co-worker. I knew they were coming, industry event and all, but it still seemed like an odd place to meet your co-workers. They also had my customers with them, which made it seem all the more strange. They all grabbed their beer, and one of my customers snagged a joint. It’s legal where they come from which I guess made this nothing new. Then they all came into the consumption lounge and I introduced them to my family.
A lighter came out and they lit the joint and passed it around. My family didn’t join, as like I said, we don’t smoke. But others did. After a minute I took a look around and thought I must be high. This was too surreal of a moment for it to possibly be happening. I was standing in a cannabis dispensary, in a consumption lounge with smoke all around, and a joint being passed. Already highly unlikely and not where I ever thought I would be. I was also standing in this room with my family. My mother had been known for a rather staunch opinion on cannabis and her children when I was in high school, but there she was standing beside me. That didn’t seem right. My boss was standing opposite me, chatting with my family. Wait, I was here for work? My customers happily puffed on a joint at the table beside us. What on earth was going on?! This was not the happy awe but definitely in the court of dumfounded shock. I had to be high.
I must have had an odd look on my face because someone grinned at me and asked if I was feeling alright. I smiled and explained the surreal moment I was standing in.
“This is a first for me, and really weird. I don’t think I’m doing this whole cannabis thing right.” I said.
That got a chuckle from everyone. They agreed this was probably a strange first time. We left shortly after, none of us really wanting to push the limit with another beverage. I must admit I didn’t feel much different, apart from the symptom of dry-mouth. My boyfriend and dad seemed to be just fine as well, but they weren’t saying much so who could tell. My mother managed to get back to the hotel before she started laughing hysterically.
It tokes one to know, I guess.
I admit that I am a bit in the dark about this one. I have never tried a THC product and as for CBD, I'm not 100% convinced of its seemingly all encompassing powers. The muscle rub, absolute godsend. The drops and edibles? Well, convince me. I do see the huge potential for this new avenue in the beverage industry.
However, I have questions. Lots of questions.
For starters, what does the percent THC or CBD mean to me as a drinker? I know what 10% alcohol will do to me and have fair understanding of my tolerance, but as one who has never partaken in any THC product and hasn't had a CBD product I ingest that works, I don't know what that percentage means. What "buzz" am I going to get off of that and for how long? Are we talking happy, paranoid, chill, or straight out space cadet?
From a legal standpoint, how on earth would it be regulated at a bar? Currently I believe, TCH or CBD products are not sold for on premise consumption. You have to buy them and take them home to enjoy. At least I believe thats how it works in the states. I think I recall seeing some folks having a CBD spiked pot of tea at a shop when I was in Spain but that how it works here. As a server in my younger days, I know what to look for as the signs when someone may be a bit over their limit, but can someone be too chill off THC beverages? Anyway, when we have alcohol we can test the blood alcohol content to see if someone is over the limit. How do you test CBD or THC? Is that even a concern?
What about taste? Again never had a THC beverage or at all, but the CBD I have tried is typically a touch skunky, herby, or funky if its the oil. Is this something we can expect with the beverages? I don't mind herbaceous flavors, but skunky might be a bit much for me to truly enjoy while sitting at the bar. Flavor does have to be a consideration.
Finally, as I understand, these products are only in package format (can or bottle), but with the eruption of this market it can't be long before we're considering applying this to draft options as well. Which brings to mind a number of technical questions on how it will be dispensed. For example, will it be like beer pushed with CO2 or would it be a still beverage? How is it going to look in a glass? Foamy? Cloudy? Served in a pint or a cocktail glass?
I am awash with questions. I am also out of my element here, and I apologize if any of ya'll who do enjoy are offended. I clearly do not know a lot about this topic and what I have learned about THC probably came from television.
Luckily, I have less than a week to wait to get some answers. On July 25th, the first Global Cannabis Drinks Expo will be held in San Francisco, CA. I am one of the lucky carriers of an exhibitor badge to that event, attending for both my professional and personal curiosity. Seems as though I am not the only one trying to get the lay of the land in this high-flying new industry. With a number of companies in attendance and quite a few presentations on what the THC and CBD beverage industry bring to the table, those in attendance will be sure to get ample information. I already have a notebook primed and ready to take in all the info and answers to my questions. I am a glutton for information.
So the next post will hopefully full of some answers to these questions and surely will possess more information than I have now. Also since I will be in San Francisco, may contain speakeasy adventures, walk through Chinatown, and my first trip to Napa and Sonoma. When in Rome right?
If you have questions on THC/CBD beverages, please share them. I haven't thought of them all and would love to know what inquiries you may have as well. It's a brave new beverage world after all.
Celebrating all that we raise, sip, guzzle, clink, drinks and most affectionately cheers with!