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Budweiser brewer could launch cannabis-infused drinks in Canada

Daniella Genovese

One of the world’s largest brewers is set to bring cannabis-infused drinks to the Canadian market, possibly by the end of the year.

Fluent Beverage Company, which is a joint venture between Anheuser-Busch InBev and Tilray, a global pioneer in cannabis, announced plans last week to commercialize non-alcohol CBD-infused beverages in Canada, once regulations allow.

“We have assembled a team with best-in-class expertise from the beverage and cannabis industries and together we are reaching higher for our consumers, with a shared commitment to setting the standard for product quality and responsible marketing," said Fluent CEO Jorn Socquet.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is derived from the cannabis plant and, unlike THC, does not cause any known psychoactive effects. The company intends to have CBD-infused beverages available for sale in Canada as early as December 2019. That timeline, however, is dependant on regulatory approval.

Until then, Fluent announced they will continue its research on non-alcohol beverages containing THC.

People drank 1.6 percent less alcohol in 2018. Underage drinking has declined even more significantly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1980, 72 percent of high school seniors said they drank alcohol in the prior 30 days, and more than 40 percent said they had binge drank. By 2016, less than a third of high school seniors said they’d drank in the prior 30 days and less than 16 percent said they binge drank. That trend has led to a rise in "sober bars."

Even those who do drink are moving away from beer. To adjust to the changing market, the Budweiser brewer announced it would be making a hard seltzer, which became the fad drink this past summer. In 2015, hard sodas including seltzers had $116 million in sales. But as of August, retail store sales of hard seltzer have hit $515 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.

AB InBev participates in the joint venture through its subsidiary Labatt Breweries of Canada, one of the country's founding businesses and its leading brewer. Tilray participates through its Canadian adult-use cannabis subsidiary High Park Company which develops, sells and distributes a portfolio of cannabis brands and products in Canada.

Last year, the companies announced their plan to commercialize non-alcohol CBD-infused beverages across Canada which is the first G-7 nation to legalize, regulate and tax cannabis and its by-products for responsible adult consumption.

The company believes that the legal market for cannabis-infused beverages will “thrive if the industry embraces appropriate regulation of adult-use cannabis, including responsible production, marketing, sale, and consumption.”

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Established in 1847, Labatt Breweries has become one of Canada's founding businesses and its leading brewer. Meanwhile, Canadian pharmaceutical and cannabis company Tilray currently serves tens of thousands of patients in 13 countries spanning five continents.

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