Lagunitas Brewing unveils cannabis-infused drink

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Lagunitas Brewing Co. of Petaluma is delving deeper into the cannabis industry, announcing the launch of a new THC- infused sparkling beverage .

The drink, named Hi-Fi Hops, only will be available at licensed cannabis dispensaries in California starting July 30. It will come in two varieties, including one containing 10 mg of THC, a principal psychoactive chemical in marijuana. The other will have 5 milligrams of THC and 5 mg of cannabidiol, or CBD, a cannabis compound used to treat pain. The drinks do not contain alcohol.

The product comes on the heels of last year’s Lagunitas SuperCritical Ale, which contained aromatic compounds of essential oils extracted from marijuana plants but had no THC in the beer. Both drinks were produced with Santa Rosa- based CannaCraft Inc., a cannabis-extract manufacturing facility led by William Silver, former dean of Sonoma State University’s business school.

Lagunitas was founded in 1993 by Tony Magee, an avid cannabis user whose marketing long promoted a stoner- friendly culture. So the push into the cannabis drinks market is not surprising for one of the nation’s largest craft brewers, now wholly owned by Heineken International.

It also not the first or largest foray by alcohol-beverage makers into the expanding cannabis market.

Wine giant Constellation Brands Inc., which owns Clos du Bois in Geyserville, Simi Winery in Healdsburg and Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa, took a 10 percent stake in a Canadian medicinal cannabis provider in October, gaining more insight into the sector.

“Hi-Fi is not the first chapter in the love affair between cannabis and Lagunitas, but it is one of the most exciting,” Lagunitas CEO Maria Stipp said in a statement. “The idea of having a no-calorie beverage infused with cannabis seemed like a perfect next step in our product innovation, and a natural way to marry our past with our future.”

Most beverage producers so far have steered clear of cannabis, especially over concern such blends could jeopardize their federal license to make beer, wine, or spirits because marijuana still is illegal under federal law.

But the lure of a new market is strong and many are exploring ways to enter the sector, valued at up to $7 billion in California.

“I think the alcohol industry is very much paying attention to cannabis and finding out ways to get involved,” said Rebecca Stamey-White, an attorney who represents alcohol beverage producers who want to enter the market. “Most folks are avoiding products containing alcohol and finding ways to leverage their brand in cannabis.”

Lagunitas found a way around potential legal snags by brewing the hop-flavored water at its Petaluma facility. It was then trucked over to CannaCraft, where the THC and CBD were added and then canned. CannaCraft will use its own distribution network in California to deliver the product to as many as 250 dispensaries in the state.

To comply with a new child-safety law, CannaCraft worked with its vendor to design an aluminum can that would require two maneuvers to open instead of the traditional pop-top, said spokeswoman Kial Long.

Lagunitas said the new drinks will be full of hops, like its beers. But they’ll also feature fruit aromas, such as grapefruit, and floral fragrances, including lavender.

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