Green Blue Glass 6340980c11fa8

Pot, Booze and Legality

Oct. 7, 2022
Why are mashups considered good for one but terrible for the other?

Some of the more irritating dinner-table arguments that took place during the 1960s and beyond centered on this line, usually delivered in a teenage whine: “How come pot is illegal but booze isn’t?”

That comes to mind as I contemplate the problem of THC-infused copycat knockoffs of mainstream food products, especially in light of a very different kind of mashup: booze named for soft drinks.

THC, of course, is the psychoactive ingredient of cannabis – the stuff that gets you high. In the last few years, there’s been a chronic problem with seedy operators producing THC-laced versions of candy, snack chips and other mainstream foods, in packaging virtually identical to the real thing.

This has drawn outrage from the Consumer Brands Association and others, including myself. It’s unacceptable for the obvious reason that it poses a risk of children mistaking it for the real thing.

Well, as long as we’re going down that road...

During a roundtable at the annual convention of the National Association of Convenience Stores, a representative of the Circle K chain expressed concern about “hard” versions of long-familiar soft-drink brands. Monster Beverages, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have all brought out, or have in the works, alcoholic drinks bearing the name of Mtn Dew and other mainstream soft-drink brands.

The Circle K exec worried that someone – a consumer or a c-store employee – who sees the “Mtn Dew” on the label will miss the “hard” part. "If they don't recognize that's an alcoholic brand, the potential of a kid picking it up — it's real," she said. Not to mention the risk of a kid picking it up in the home fridge.

These aren’t exactly analogous situations, of course. The “hard soda” stuff is duly authorized by all the companies involved, while the THC knockoffs are clearly illegal.

And therein lies the rub. The knockoffs are illegal because of the dubious, gray-area, here-it’s-legal-there-it-isn’t status of cannabis in general. Shady operators are free to put out THC knockoffs because there’s no legitimate, profitable way for mainstream (or any other) food companies to do it. Meanwhile, hard soda can be freely sold in c-stores or anywhere else with a liquor license, because alcohol, of course, is legal.

I don’t have much to recommend about the hard-soda situation, other than vigilance by retailers and parents. But the THC situation badly needs straightening out. Let’s decide, once and for all, whether cannabis is legal in this country and how it can be used in food and beverages.

Oh, and the question posed in the first paragraph? Dad found it so irritating because he never really had a good answer.

About the Author

Pan Demetrakakes | Senior Editor

Pan has written about the food and beverage industry for more than 25 years. His areas of coverage have included formulations, processing, packaging, marketing and retailing. Pan worked for Food Processing Magazine for six years in the 1990s, where he was operations editor (his current role), touring dozens of food plants of every description. He has also worked for Packaging and Food & Beverage Packaging magazines, the latter as chief editor, during which he won three ASBPE awards. He is a graduate of Stanford University with a BA in communications.

Sponsored Recommendations

Learn About: Micro Motion™ 4700 Config I/O Coriolis Transmitter

An Advanced Transmitter that Expands Connectivity

Micro Motion™ G-Series Coriolis Flow and Density Meter

Micro Motion G-Series: market-leading compact design featuring advanced process diagnostic capability.

Embracing Sustainability using Advanced Measurement Instrumentation

A practical guide to greeningyour brewing operationsusing advanced measurementinstrumentation.

Get Hands-On Training in Emerson's Interactive Plant Environment

Enhance the training experience and increase retention by training hands-on in Emerson's Interactive Plant Environment. Build skills here so you have them where and when it matters...