Oops, Minnesota Accidentally Legalized THC-Spiked Seltzer

Craft breweries are cranking out cannabis-infused drinks after a sudden law change.
THC seltzer in Minnesota law weed
Collage by Cathryn Virginia | Photos by MirageC, Tripod, and Jamroen via Getty Images

On July 1, 2022, Minnesota breweries received a windfall. 

That day, the Minnesota State Legislature passed a law allowing the sale of products containing THC. It was a baffling development, considering state Republicans’ longstanding opposition to marijuana legalization, yet Statute 151.72 passed—unanimously, with zero debate, in a GOP-controlled Senate. 


There is some debate about whether some Republican lawmakers read or understood the statute, which was sponsored by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor opposition. For the past few years, the state has already allowed the sale of products containing delta-8 THC, the less-potent minor cannabinoid. But the new bill also legalized the sale of delta-9 THC, the major cannabinoid that creates the euphoric effect most marijuana users seek. With that, the least-regulated legal THC market in the United States was open for business.

“That doesn’t legalize marijuana … we didn’t just do that, did we?” Republican Sen. Jim Abeler joked during the session. They hadn’t. Instead, they legalized the manufacture and sale of products containing hemp-derived THC—edibles, capsules, tinctures, and drinks—with high enough concentrations for most people to feel their effects. “I thought we were doing a technical fix, and it winded up having a broader impact than I expected,” Sen. Abeler told the Star Tribune.


“That doesn’t legalize marijuana … we didn’t just do that, did we?” —Senator Jim Abeler

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. 


“Our distributor used to live in Colorado, and all he said was, ‘This is bad, bad, bad,’” said Jason Sandquist, co-founder of Wild Mind Ales. Despite that warning, Wild Mind released their 5 mg WLD WTR Infusions line on September 9. They sold out—over 1,000 cans—before noon on the first day. “You know what, if I don’t do it, the next person down the street is gonna,” Sandquist said. “It’s like a gold rush.

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.


“We don’t want people to get jacked up and start seeing things,” said Ryan Pitman, owner of Eastlake Craft Brewery, who released their High & Dry drink on August 10. “It’s a nice, mellow result. You can feel it coming on pretty quick.”

It’s not just Minnesota breweries cashing in on the THC boom. Any licensed manufacturer can produce THC edibles, capsules, tinctures, or drinks, and early reports have found rampant violations in labeling and dosage of THC edibles, leading to inconsistent and sometimes distressing experiences for users. While no brewery contacted for this story has heard a complaint from the Board of Pharmacy, there’s still some concern about what someone might feel after a heavy session, simply because seltzers are such a new and uncommon format for THC: only about 1% of all legal cannabis is consumed in liquid form. But so long as the high is good, sales should continue to boom: Wellendorf said Modist couldn’t even keep Tint in stock.

“We’ll see what happens,” Wellendorf said. “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.”


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.”

“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

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. 


Dr. Keith Villa, author of Brewing with Cannabis: Using THC and CBD in Beer, warns of more sweeping changes, especially with the potential of federal legalization. In 2017, Dr. Villa launched Ceria Brewing, a Colorado-based brewery specializing in non-alcoholic beer infused with low doses of THC and CBD. In his estimation, things will probably tend towards the model he’s seen in Colorado or California, where beer and THC are kept strictly separate. What’s happening in Minnesota right now will probably never happen again in the United States.

“I think the FDA and the federal government are going to try to keep [THC] as isolated from alcohol as possible,” he said. “Federal legalization in the States could end up looking like Canada, where it’s illegal to produce both types of beverages in the same building.”

Dr. Villa also warns that, like in Canada, it might become illegal for breweries to use their brands to sell THC products. Right now, Minnesota beermakers are trading on their brands’ standing within craft beer, but a federal law like this could undo all that. “Minnesota brewers really should take that to heart,” he said. “If the federal government said you’ve got to separate the names, then they’re gonna have to start from ground zero.”

What’s happening in Minnesota is a volatile crucible, and every brewery with a THC drink on the menu has some sense that they’re in tender days. Pages are falling off the calendar. But at least for this brief moment, in the exact right political conditions, the excitement feels familiar.

“It kind of reminds me of how craft beer used to be, when every beer we released was like a new set of Jordans,” Wellendorf said. “But we’d be naive to think that this would last.”

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