California Reminds Industry: State Will Not Allow Cannabis-Infused Alcoholic Beverages

California Reminds Industry: State Will Not Allow Cannabis-Infused Alcoholic Beverages

The state has taken steps to clarify cannabis product regulations in recent weeks.

July 30, 2018

The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) issued a memo that further clarified the state’s position on cannabis and alcohol—namely, that the two regulated substances shall not mix in commercial products. 

“With the legalization of commercial recreational use of cannabis and cannabis products commencing in 2018, along with the licensed manufacture and sale, a number of questions have arisen about what activities are permissible on or in premises licensed … to manufacture or sell alcoholic beverages,” the department wrote.

Chief among the memo’s guidelines:

Can I infuse (or mix) alcoholic beverages with cannabis (either as a manufacturer or retailer)?

No. There are two specific reasons why this is not permitted. First, since cannabis cannot be sold in the same premises as alcoholic beverages, any product that contains both cannabis and beverage alcohol cannot be sold at premises licensed with either an ABC license or a MAUCRSA license. (See FAQ # 2.) Second, regulations issued by the California Department of Public Health prohibit the sale of “edible cannabis products” as alcoholic beverages. (Title 17, Cal. Code of Regs., section 40300.)

The prohibition on blending the two substances runs clear across the industry: A licensed cannabis retailer may not sell alcohol on-site at all. Licensed cannabis events may not allow alcohol sales or distribution.

The department pointed out that this isn’t a new policy, but rather a timely reminder of the industries’ boundaries. (Still, though, the ABC wrote that persons may hold both alcohol and cannabis licenses; the two regulated businesses, however, must not cross paths.)

The ABC memo comes on the heels of the California Department of Public Health clarifying its policy on CBD in food products and beverages. “It is thus prohibited,” the department wrote, “for an ABC licensee to use CDB or CBD products, regardless of source, in the manufacture or production of any alcoholic beverage, including using it in mixed drinks or cocktails.

Breweries have long skirted the question of cannabis and alcohol by brewing beers with THC—and no alcohol content. Lagunitas, a popular California-based brewery, officially released Hi-Fi Hops on July 30. The THC- and CBD-infused sparkling water is “inspired by” the company’s flagship IPA. 

Market forces elsewhere have hinted at an even bolder nexus between the cannabis and alcohol industries. As adult-use sales grower nearer in Canada (Oct. 17), scientists at Toronto-based Province Brands revealed plans for a cannabis-infused beer.  And Canopy Growth, one of the largest cannabis producers in the world, is currently working on a cannabis-infused cocktail line

Top photo courtesy of Adobe Stock