Sonoma-based Rebel Coast Winery rolled out a THC-forward dealcolized wine to California dispensaries just after the legalization of recreational cannabis in California at the beginning of this year. Now, the same Colorado company — Ebbu — that’s infusing that good-times cannabinoid into Rebel Coast’s sauvignon blanc is helping the creator of the Blue Moon craft beer for MillerCoors do the same with a Colorado-based line alcohol-removed craft brews called Ceria Beverages.
So why put out adult beverages that bring the buzz by bud but not by fermentation? Ceria founder Keith Villa told Denver-based magazine 5280 that alcohol was “one-dimensional.” But marijuana strains offer “other sensations.”
Another reason given is calorie content, pushed upward by the amount of alcohol. Ceria brews are targeted for 50 to 70 calories, compared with 150–200 calories for a number of craft beers in the 5 percent–8 percent alcohol range. Rebel Coast’s infused wine is 35 calories a glass, compared with about 120 calories for a 5-ounce pour of 11 percent sauvignon blanc.
But there’s also the legal ramifications of pot in beverage alcohol. Simply put, if a product does not have alcohol, it is not considered beverage alcohol, according to Bahaneh Hobel, Napa-based head of the alcohol practice at law firm Dickenson Peatman & Fogarty.
“(The Tax & Trade Bureau) would regulate to the point of alcohol being removed, but then it’s not an alcohol product, and so it would be regulated by the FDA,” Hobel said in an email. “Both federal agencies and the feds still classify marijuana and CBDs as illegal, so that risk remains.”
CBD is a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid and used in medical treatments for a number of conditions. The Food and Drug Administration in June approved the first CBD-based treatment, but the federal Drug Enforcement Agency still classifies marijuana products as Schedule 1 controlled drugs.
Paso Robles-based wine industry compliance firm Compli noted revised guidance from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, or ABC, beverage alcohol and food can't contain CBD until the FDA allows hemp-derived products in food or California determines they are safe for people and animals.
"ABC licensees may not manufacture, produce, or sell CBD or CBD products, or any products that contain CBD. It does not matter if the CBD comes from industrial hemp or from cannabis," the new guidance said. "This also includes nonalcoholic beverage products and edibles. It is thus prohibited 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."
Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 707-521-4256.