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Drink Your Weed: Is Cannabis the Beverage Industry’s Next Big Thing?

At a bustling conference center in South San Francisco, more than 1,000 people packed an exhibit hall to see the beverage industry’s big new breakthrough: cannabis you can drink. It’s a hard-won victory for science that’s poised to spawn a whole new category of products.

If you go back a few years, THC drinks were a little like salad dressing. They had to be shaken, and a lot of them didn’t taste or smell that good,” said Rick Gillis, president of Tinley Beverage Co.‘s North American business. “But thanks to nanotechnology — and this has only happened in the last couple of years — the THC molecule can be solubilized so it can suspend beautifully in the liquid.”

Gillis, whose company just launched a line of alcohol-free THC drinks that resemble cocktails and spirits, recalls that the “dark” ages of cannabis drinks arose out of a simple truth: oil and water don’t mix.

Cannabinoids like THC and CBD are lipids — fat molecules, like those found in butter and chocolate. It’s one reason brownies and candy bars were among the first commercially successful cannabis edibles: weed mixes well with chocolate. Water, on the other hand, isn’t such a natural fit.

“Our first beverage, you could turn it upside down and you’d see that cannabis go up and down,” said Kim Stolz, marketing manager for Keef Brands, which makes cannabis-infused root beer and cola.

Now, Stolz says, every sip of Keef’s sodas contains the same amount of THC, thanks to a new process that’s sweeping the industry.

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