Cannabis-infused beverages have exploded in popularity in recent years, and most grocery stores in North America now offer a wide range of CBD-infused drinks — even though these products are technically illegal in the US. Legal weed companies, and even traditional alcohol conglomerates, are constantly brainstorming new ways to monetize drinkable cannabis, but scientists recently made a discovery that could derail this new market.
Beverage manufacturers often use aluminum cans to keep their costs down, but scientists found that these cans may be an especially poor choice for weed beverages. The lining of these cans, scientists contend, can actually leach the cannabinoids out of the beverages, diminishing their potency.
Pot edibles can easily be made by adding cannabis oils to a traditional food product. But the same trick can’t be used to make drinkable weed because of basic chemistry: Oil and water don’t mix. Infused beverage manufacturers get around this by using nanoemulsion to break down cannabis compounds into microscopic particles that can be suspended in a liquid. This process also has the pleasant side effect of increasing the bioavailability of the cannabinoids, which means that a pot drink can take effect faster than an edible.
There may be a downside to using nanoemulsion, though. Most metallic cans have interior liners that prevent the can from corroding, which improves shelf life and prevents the drink from tasting like metal. Unfortunately, however, by the time an infused beverage is packaged, shipped, stored, and then sold in a store, the interior of a can may have absorbed most of the beverage’s cannabinoids, rendering it ineffective.
“Our theory is the cannabis material, the droplets, will stick to the liner and cling on it,” said Harold Han, founder and CSO of cannabis infusion tech firm Vertosa, to Yahoo Finance Canada. “When you open the can to take a drink, it will lose its potency.”
Han said that he first noticed the issue when Lagunitas brewery switched its Hi-Fi Hops cannabis drinks from cans to glass bottles early last year. “Then we thought, let’s get some can liners,” Han told Yahoo. “Let’s test our emulsions.” After conducting these tests, Han and his team found that the loss of cannabinoids “was horrible.”
Vertosa has now partnered with several can manufacturers, including Ball, Ardagh Group, and Gamer Packaging, to try to create a new can liner that will absorb fewer cannabis compounds. “It’s up to us to find the solution,” said Han. “You will always see some percentage of loss. But as long as you can manage this loss and let it plateau, that is the goal.”