Minnesota’s craft breweries were some of the first to act. Unlike the newly authorized THC market, the state’s regulatory environment for alcohol is highly complex, with draconian rules about how and where local breweries can sell. As a result, much of the beer business is oriented around selling 6-packs directly to customers—making it easy for them to shift gears to offering THC drinks, too.“It’s like it’s the Wild West,” said Dan Wellendorf, co-owner and head of marketing at Minneapolis’ Modist Brewing, one of at least eight breweries that have released THC-infused seltzers in the two months since THC was legalized. “We can sell as much as we want to whoever we want.”There are a few limitations: The drinks can contain no alcohol and no more than 5 mg THC (50 mg per package), and labels must include lab results certifying the dosage. But oversight is entirely down to the Board of Pharmacy, a 23-person government agency that usually focuses on pharmaceuticals and only deals with consumer complaints after the fact. The board doesn’t have its own labs to test for compliance, and the only guidance they’ve given to the police for enforcement is a checklist for inspections, so manufacturers have no real incentive to comply.
“That doesn’t legalize marijuana … we didn’t just do that, did we?” —Senator Jim Abeler
THC seltzer isn’t exactly like drinkable weed. It’s more like an upscale hard seltzer that makes you spacey instead of drunk.Unlike hard seltzer or regular beer, THC seltzer doesn’t need to be brewed or fermented, enabling breweries to produce it in under a day. Essentially, it’s a blend of sparkling water, water-soluble THC, and flavoring—most commonly pineapple, lemon, and blackberry. Modist’s Tint is made with real fruit purée, giving it a thicker body and a gleaming, colorful appearance—qualities that are quickly becoming trademarks of the style. The seltzers typically also have slightly less carbonation than your average White Claw, giving them a bit less bite. Lower-dose seltzers like Indeed Brewing’s Too Good (2mg THC) and Modist’s TINT (3mg) don’t typically produce an immediate effect after a single can. But a full 5mg dose, like High & Dry or WLD WTR Infusions, gives a good, heady feeling. It’s wholly unlike alcohol, but the goal, according to brewers, is to emulate the kicked-back, social experience of drinking beer.
The lack of formal regulation in Minnesota is both intentional and likely temporary. State Democrats were able to slip Statute 151.72 past their GOP colleagues by not outlining formal guidelines for regulation and taxation. But the Board of Pharmacy is planning to establish a Cannabis Management Office in the next year, and once excise taxes are established, the state will funnel that money toward more regulation and enforcement.“We’ve taken a lot of ideas from other states that are more highly regulated and built them into our best practices, even though it is not required by Minnesota law,” said Sandquist. “Our assumption is, the next legislative session, we’ll see a little more clamping down.”
One thing that’s likely to change is on-site consumption rules. It’s not clear right now if breweries are allowed to pour THC seltzer in their taprooms, alongside their beer. Bauhaus Brew Labs plans to allow visitors to crack open cans of their THC seltzer Tetra in the taproom when it releases this month, and Wild Mind and Eastlake already do. But Indeed only sells THC drinks to go, wary of losing their taproom license.
“Hopefully stories don’t start popping up where it’s like, ‘Man on THC water runs into traffic on I-94,’ because that’s gonna ruin it for everyone.” —Dan Wellendorf, Modist Brewing