Why cannabis beverages are the next breakthrough for the marijuana industry

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Scientists everywhere are researching marijuana and trying to understand all we can about it, writes Joseph Misulonas. That includes its medical benefits, how it affects humans and other things. But the biggest thing people are trying to figure out is how the heck to get it in liquid form.

Cannabis companies everywhere are trying to figure out how to make viable marijuana beverages. There are cannabis-infused beverage products on the market, but they're clearly not working as beverages make up less than 0.5 percent of cannabis sales in the United States. And scientists are trying to figure out how to make them better.

The issue is purely scientific. Unlike alcohol, cannabis is not water soluble. When you drink a beer or alcoholic beverage, it gets absorbed in your bloodstream so you begin feeling the effects right away. But with cannabis beverages, you won't start feeling the effects until the digestive process begins on the beverage. Then the effects of that beverage can last longer than someone wants. It's basically a similar effect of eating an edible but waiting for it to kick in.

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The problem with that is it makes it harder for people to socially enjoy cannabis beverages. You can have two or three beers in the backyard with your friends while you're hanging out, but a cannabis beverage you can only drink one and then wait to see how much it affects you afterwards.

Scientists are attempting to make cannabis more water soluble so marijuana beverages will behave more like alcoholic ones. One method is nano-emulsification, essentially blending the cannabis molecules with a different substance so it gets absorbed in the bloodstream more quickly. Another method is glycosylation, where you attach glucose to the cannabis molecules for a similar effect.

Some of these methods have worked. Two Roots Brewing Co. in Nevada has put out products using nano-emulsification that takes about 10 minutes to start feeling the effects, similar the amount of time with alcohol. But there's no consistent method that the industry has agreed upon.

There's also the issue of how the FDA would regulate cannabis-infused beverages if they ended up hitting the shelves. But perhaps we should figure out how to make them reliably first before worrying about that.

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