Marijuana for recreational use may not be fully legal in the United States yet, but that isn’t stopping Coca-Cola from taking bold steps into the marijuana industry.
Monday, Bloomberg News reported that the beverage company is keeping a close eye on the growing CBD industry. CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of two main molecules found in Marijuana with the other being tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. While previously thought to be dormant if used by humans, a number of recent studies have shown that CBD can be used to treat a wide host of conditions from epilepsy to schizophrenia, heart disease, and even some cancers.
In recent months, the CBD industry has exploded with reports indicating the market could hit $20 billion by 2020. According to Bloomberg, Coca-Cola is currently in talks with the Canadian marijuana company Aura Cannabis to discuss the possibility of releasing a CBD-infused beverage.
As news of these developments broke, both Aura and Tilray, a medical cannabis producer, saw their stock prices surge 15% and 9.4% respectively.
As reported by Fortune Magazine, soda consumption in 2016 fell to a 30-year low as more American kick the can, opting instead for ‘healthy beverages,’ which according to a report from this past spring is, “projected to display robust growth.” According to one spokesperson for the Atlanta based company, they are paying close attention to the “growth of non-psychoactive CBD as an ingredient in functional wellness beverages.” By observing the health benefits of CBD and the boom in the cannabis industry, Coca-Cola, by potentially combining both could be sitting on an enormously profitable idea that would completely transform the soda industry.
While no final decisions have been made, it’s been noted that such a product would likely not be available in the United States until the federal marijuana laws are changed. A legal adviser for Coke told CNN that a CBD infused drink would likely be developed in Canada initially, with the intentions of breaking into the US market upon changes to the federal laws. Such a move may, in fact, pressure lawmakers to act quicker on marijuana, should the product prove successful. The Food & Beverage lobby continues to be highly influential in Washington D.C., contributing almost $16.9 million during the 2014 midterm cycle. Coca-Cola currently sits as the top lobbying client for 2018 according to Open Secrets.
The attitude toward cannabis in the United States has been rapidly changing for the past several years. Per a Pew Research poll from earlier this year, 61% of Americans now support full legalization of marijuana. Broken down into age groups, 70% of millennials support legalization. Still, even a majority of baby boomers support legalizing marijuana at 56%.
Times are changing, gone are the days of “Reefer Madness” when people described marijuana as the “burning weed with its roots in hell” and other overly dramatic public awareness campaigns. Now people are even buying CBD products for their pets! (including that woman who called the cops on an 8-year old girl selling water). While lawmakers are slower to act, we say bring on the Diet Cherry CBD Coke.