Cannabis Beer Consumption in Europe

Part
01
of two
Part
01

THC in beer: details of consumption, demographics

According to a report published by the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA), the general European guidance for Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) consumption in beer is a minuscule 5 micrograms (0.005 milligrams) per kilogram. There are a number of hemp-infused beers on the market in both Europe and the United States, however, such beers do not contain THC. In fact, the effects of THC mixed with alcohol are deemed quite dangerous, which is why "cannabis-infused beer has received a mixed response both in Europe and the U.S."

Below is an outline of our research methodology to better understand why the information you've requested is unavailable, as well as a deep dive into our findings.

METHODOLOGY

After an extensive search through a number credible sources such as the European Hemp Industry Association site, the European Drug Report, and trusted media sites, we found no information related to THC laced beers. We then searched the legality of THC laced beers in both the United States and Europe and found that while hemp-infused beers are deemed legal, any products containing THC are not.

THC Laced Beers: Europe

According to a study, alcohol only amplifies THC in the bloodstream, which makes the combination of the two substances quite unpredictable. However, there are increasing amounts of European breweries that are combining hemp (which has little to no THC) and beer. Germany and the Czech Republic are two European countries that have taken to this trend. Germany's beer consumption is estimated at "107 liters per inhabitant per year," and the Czech Republic leads the way with "144 liters per inhabitant per year." Additionally, in 2016 23.1% of Germans (aged 15-34) used cannabis and 28.7% of Czechs (aged 15-34). This may explain why the two countries have taken to hemp-infused beer. Festivals such as the German Oktoberfest and the Czech Beer Festival have helped contribute to the popularity of hemp-infused beers.

It should be noted that none of the European Union member states have completely legalized marijuana. Countries such as Germany, Portugal, Netherlands, and Spain have, somewhat, bent their laws. Countries such as Belgium, Slovenia, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Croatia, and the Czech Republic have "semi-legalized" marijuana. For example, in Belgium CBD products are legal but products that contain THC are not.

Germany's Federal Institute for Health Protection of Consumers and Veterinary Medicine (BgVV) has set the daily guidance value for the THC in alcoholic beverages. This guidance is followed by all European Union member states. The daily guidance stands at 0.005 milligrams of THC per kilogram.

THC laced beers: USA

In the United States, there are a handful of breweries that have released hemp-infused beers, however, none of these brews are infused with THC. In fact, in 2017 the DEA classified Cannabidiol (CBD) and hemp extracts as Schedule 1 drugs, which place them in the same category as heroin and cocaine. Before January 2017, CBD with less than 1% of THC was "available via mail order in all states."

SUMMARY

Beer that is laced with THC is considered unpredictable and is therefore illegal in both Europe and the United States. Europe does make provision for a daily amount of 0.005 milligrams of THC per kilogram of alcohol, this provision may be due to the fact that some hemp-infused beers have tiny traces of THC. It is perfectly legal to produce and sell hemp-infused beer in both Europe and the United States, however, such beer should not include THC, especially in the United States.




Part
02
of two
Part
02

THC in beer and impact on beer consumption

Preliminary research into the cannabis beer market revealed that THC is not a legal substance in Europe and the US, and alcoholic products that are marketed as cannabis beers or "cannabeers" contain CBD, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid of cannabis. Since the cannabeer market is still in its infancy, and not enough research has been made into the effects of CBD-infused beer on subjects, there was no information available about the expected effects in volume sales of beer as a result of this new product.

Methodology

An extensive search into THC and THC-infused alcoholic beverages yielded no sources that would directly answer the client's request. There are no direct studies available that evaluate the increase/decrease in consumption capacity of subjects while drinking THC-infused beer. The probable reason behind this is that currently there are no THC-infused beers available in the US market and THC is still widely banned in Europe. Without any hard data on this specific market, it's proven impossible for us to answer the client's question effectively. However, through our research we have found noteworthy studies and articles that we believe will provide the client with useful information about the potential of this market.

HELPFUL FINDINGS

The pursuit of a high resulting from the combination of two drugs (in this case, alcohol and cannabis) is known as "crossfade". Researchers have not conducted enough experiments to reach any universal conclusions about this behavior and the effects seen on its subjects, since individuals do not have a uniform response to the effects of alcohol and marijuana. While this realm of science remains largely under-studied, the only common conclusion that studies of these two substances have been able to reach is that the amount of THC in blood doubles when cannabis and alcohol are mixed. Since cannabinoids (the active components of cannabis: THC and/or CBD) are liposoluble substances (dissolved in only fats, oils and ethanol), the presence of alcohol when consuming THC increases its rate of absorption into the bloodstream. Interestingly enough, a different set of studies conducted found that if a subject smoked marijuana before consuming beer, the effects of marijuana on the subject's GI tract would lead to a lower rate of absorption for alcohol.

It is currently illegal to brew and distribute beers laced with THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid, in both the US and Europe. However, the USA launched its first every federally approved cannabis-infused beer, the George Washington's Secret Stash, in 2015. This beer is laced with CBD, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid agent found in marijuana. Unlike TCH, CBD is legal in Europe (except Slovakia) and its therapeutic benefits have been scientifically proven. CBD has grown in such popularity throughout Europe that farmers are choosing to grow this strain of marijuana over other traditional crops.

CBD is said to aid with anxiety, inflammation and liver disease. Subjects that consume "cannabeer" with CBD have reported to experience milder (or no) hangovers. Nonetheless, more studies are needed to determine CBD-infused beer's health benefits.

There are strong governmental regulations against THC-induced alcoholic products, but a few trail-blazer companies have begun developing and distributing CBD-infused beers. In August 2017, California's Lagunitas Brewing Co. presented a beer brewed with elements extracted from cannabis plants (CBD). While this beer won't get the consumer high (it lacks the psychoactive cannabinoid THC), it is part of the first wave of cannabis-infused products to hit US markets. Aside from Lagunitas Brewing Co., other breweries have taken steps into developing similar products, among them, Humboldt Brewing Co. (CA), Coalition Brewing (OR) and KettleHouse Brewing (MT).

CONCLUSION

While we were not able to find information that directly answered the client's requests, we determined that, as of today, THC-infused alcoholic beverages are illegal in the US and Europe. Through our research we learned that THC-infused beer leads to a higher absorption of psychoactive agents found in cannabis, but may reduce the rate at which alcohol is absorbed by the system. Given this dual effect, it is difficult to determine how overall consumption of beer will be affected as the cannabis-infused beer market continues to expand, from a few niche brewery offerings to mainstream.
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