GUEST VOICES: Here Come “Low Energy Drinks”

The Big Boss's headshotBuilding a Wall Between Cannabis and Alcohol

by Bruce Lee Livingston, MPP
Executive Director/CEO, Alcohol Justice

Alcohol and marijuana just don’t mix. Alcohol has some stimulating properties at low dosages, but ultimately it is a sedative. Marijuana and most cannabis products are sedating. When a teen tries both together, the result is much drowsier, much tipsier teen.

an image  of a pint with a marijuana leaf in the foamTake driving for example. Most countries already limit blood alcohol content (BAC) to .03% or .05%. Utah is the first state to lower the BAC limit to .05%, and Canadian provinces are moving that direction. In California and every other state the BAC limit is .08%. Some studies have shown driving while high on marijuana might actually be slightly safer than driving while drug-free, but most studies indicate increased risk from cannabis. Importantly, there is overwhelming evidence that combining the two leads to more impairment and reckless driving than either alone. Even at BACs below .08%, driving occurs when the influence of cannabis is added.

The legions of proponents of legal cannabis are busy promoting the mixing of alcohol with pot in many ways. They are promoting some cannabis products that are combined with alcohol, and many more products that blur the lines. The DEA, FDA and many state liquor-regulating agencies are firmly against mixing. The FDA stands against any hemp derivatives in alcohol products, whether they be CBDs or hemp derivatives. The TTB is supposed to review deceptive labeling and has rejected beer names like George Washington’s Secret Stash.

The progressive and groundbreaking VICELAND cable network rabidly promotes tastings of alcohol with pot on its Bong Appétit show. The show promotes restaurants and dishes that mix cannabis into food. Here’s the problem: mixing alcohol and pot at the same restaurant is against the law in California. More importantly, restaurants that serve the two together are putting their customers at risk of drunk and high driving. (Well, actually, ABC licensees are insulated from liability and the servers are liable under dram shop liability laws in over 30 states.) The Los Angeles Times recently reported on Gracias Madre in West Hollywood putting CBD tincture into a mint mojito – probably illegally.

I wailed at the wind and filed an unsuccessful ABC complaint when I heard about Hi-Fi Hops from the Heineken-owned Lagunitas brewery and AbsoluteXtracts/CRFT. I call Hi-Fi Hops a “Low Energy Drink.” In fact, it claims to have no alcohol content and is derived from the IPA flavoring and carbonated water from the Lagunitas brewery down the street. (Is it really nonalcoholic, though? Or is Hi-Fi Hops just less than .5% ABV as many Kombucha drinks claim?) The liquid wort bilge is provided by the ABC licensee Lagunitas and then the marijuana licensee produces the low energy drink. The owner and founder of Lagunitas, Jeremy Marshall, has historically pushed the mixing of pot and alcohol, long before he made a fortune selling out to Heineken. One person who tried the $10 can of Hi-Fi Hops said it tastes like bong water. Nice try. Stick with beer, Jeremy and Heineken.

The global corporations that control alcohol production and marketing are already knee deep into low energy drinks. Rumors abound that Coca-Cola in Canada wants in on pot drinks. Constellation brands – an American company which produces wine (Mondavi), beer (Corona) and distilled spirits (Svedka) – has bought into the pot industry by purchasing Canopy. Anheuser-Busch InBev is 10% or so owned by Altria/Philip Morris, so don’t be surprised when tobacco plantations shift to marijuana fields in the name of “Bud-Wiser” cans.

But what about CBD, the kids ask? It doesn’t get you high they say. I don’t know if it gets you high or what ultimately the curative properties of CBD actually are. According to anecdotal claims, CBD does not even work well unless there is some amount of THC, the part of cannabis that gets you loaded. Additionally, CBD is a pharmaceutical, approved by the FDA already for a Epidiolex oral solution for control of severe forms of epilepsy. Until there is real science on the mixing of CBD through peer-reviewed, double blind studies the approach should be cautious. The precautionary principle dictates that the mixing should be avoided. Would CBD decrease seizures or intensity of seizures taken with 2 doses (24 ounces of 5% ABV beer)? Or would it be harmful to epileptics?

There needs to be a firm line between cannabis products and alcohol products. This is the right time and place place to build the wall. Alcohol bottles and cans should not have hemp or marijuana derivatives in them. Liquor licensees should never be allowed to have cannabis products on-site or even next door. Restaurants shouldn’t have cannabis infused foods if they want to keep a liquor license. VICELAND should get off the mixing bandwagon and stick to their groundbreaking reporting. With growing evidence that marijuana legalization may lead to less alcohol consumption, let’s not go backwards by mixing the two.

READ MORE about pot and driving.

READ MORE about how Heineken is already weaseling its way around marijuana laws.