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The Next Big Thing Is Weed Beer

For large beverage companies, the push into pot is all about the fear of missing out. After getting beat on trends including craft beer, coconut water, and flavored seltzer, the drink giants don’t want to miss the next trendy ingredient: cannabis. Whether it’s the THC that gets you high or the nonpsychoactive CBD, weed components are being infused into drinks with an eye toward the mass market.

PepsiCo Inc. faces a struggle for growth as consumers turn away from sugary soda. Its shares took a hit recently after its chief financial officer told analysts the company had no plans for cannabis. Coca-Cola Co. recently acknowledged it was looking at the possibility of infusing CBD into “functional, wellness beverages around the world.” The interest of Coke was more validation for the burgeoning cannabis industry, which has moved from the black market to the stock market and now appears to be on its way to the supermarket.

Legal marijuana sales are expected to rise to $11 billion in the U.S. this year, from $9 billion in 2017, and cannabis-infused beverages account for less than 1 percent of that. But a recent report from the bank Canaccord Genuity Group Inc. estimated that sales of drinks infused with THC or CBD will reach $600 million in sales in the U.S. by 2022. In Colorado, which became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2014, sales of cannabis drinks almost doubled in 2017 and are up an additional 18 percent in the first half of this year, according to Flowhub LLC, which tracks marijuana sales data.

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