I tried six 'drinkables' from the Ontario Cannabis Store
My cann-adventure began on 10/17, appropriately enough.
Not Oct. 17, 2018, when cannabis was first legalized in Canada, but two years later, when I went out for a walk to pick up some drinkables. I didn’t choose the two-year anniversary deliberately; it was just a sunny day.
I only realized when I got to the cannabis store and was told I’d get a 17 per cent discount for 10/17. That was the good news. The bad? I couldn’t buy all six of the (single serving) beverages I’d selected. I was over the 30-gram limit.
Given that I can fill up a whole shopping cart at the LCBO that seems a little bit strict, but I didn’t complain since I knew it wasn’t the staff’s fault and, plus, there was another store with drinkables around the corner. This must be why there’s a cannabis store every 60 metres in Toronto: you have to go to several to get everything you might want to try.
Why was I two years late to the party? Well, I’m just not that into cannabis. I gave up on it decades ago when I realized it didn’t make me happy or relaxed like it did for other people. Instead, it made me twitchy and nauseous.
Friends have tried to lure me back with the promise of a more user-friendly cannabis, engineered by science. Interesting, but I’ve never had enough FOMO to bother.
This fall, though, a decent selection of drinkables is finally available to the consumer, so in the name of investigative journalism it was time to give kief a chance. Here is my journey into drinkables or, as I call them, “dank dranks.”
Days 1 and 2, I settled on a plan of one drink per night, starting with cannabidiol (CBD) “expressions.” What does that mean? CBD is a compound found in hemp and cannabis plants that’s therapeutic but not psychoactive, like Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Everie Lemon & Lime CBD Sparkling Water ($5.90; 269mL; 11g sugar; 10mg CBD) tastes more like a sparkling lemonade than water, which is great from my point of view, especially since it’s heavy on the lemon zest and has a touch of complexity. It was super drinkable and, about 30 minutes later, I felt the stress leave the body.
Was it a placebo effect? Possibly. The science isn’t completely in on this one, not that this has stopped a veritable gold rush of wellness claims about CBD’s magical powers. Incidentally, from the packaging, it’s clear this is the market these two drinks are going after.
Case in point: Verywell Sicilian Lemon Sparkling Water ($6.65; 355mL; 0g sugar; 15g CBD; 0.5mg THC), which tastes more like a LaCroix-type drink than the Everie. Like Everie, it started with a strong hit of citrus oil but had more bitterness and, unfortunately, a slightly filmy texture and mouth feel. Even with my quibbles, though, this drink is a lot better than a sugar-free hard soda.
Within an hour, I cancelled my plans to operate heavy machinery. It also struck me that it would be smart to have a handy little stash of Verywell and Everie around the house, in case of insomnia or days when the news is upsetting. Which is most days.
On Day 3, it was time to add a little THC to the mix with Tweed Bakerstreet & Ginger ($3.95; 355mL; 28g sugar; 2mg THC; <1mg CBD), an indica-dominant light dose.
What does “indica-dominant” mean? Although there are hybrid and blend options, cannabis is roughly divided between two “species”: indica and sativa. (There’s debate over the word “species.”) Sativa is supposed to give you a mind high; you feel indica more in the body.
The drink started off with a promising hit of ginger but, then, this kelpy flavour took over. Also: again that filmy sensation, which I think might be from the glycerin used in a lot of these drinks. You’d think 28 grams (!) of sugar would cover up flaws like these. It didn’t.
Strangely, even though the dose was laughably low, I started to feel twitchy. Wanting to quell the feeling, I began urgently eating tortilla chips dipped in a tub of sour cream mixed with Frank’s Red Hot. That was a blast from the past.
Then things got weird: my eyes and skin became really itchy. Then my head filled up with congestion and I had a sneezing fit. Could I be allergic to cannabis? Is that even a thing?
“Well, cannabis is a weed, right?” says Gordon Sussman, a specialist in allergy and clinical immunology with a practice in North York, who has been dealing with more cannabis allergies since recreational use became legal. “A lot of people experience a runny nose or sneezing when they breathe it in and it isn’t uncommon to have skin symptoms, with some people getting swelling or hives where they touch it. But some people have an anaphylactic shock, you know, so with edibles you’re going to be a little more concerned.”
Sussman says there is a test to determine if you’re allergic. But there’s no treatment, other than avoidance, since there aren’t cannabis allergy immunotherapy shots yet.
Of course, I could have had an allergic reaction to any number of things, including the hot sauce and sour cream. And, while Sussman obviously couldn’t diagnose me over the phone, he did tell me that my symptoms were consistent with a cannabis allergy, even though I was just fine with the CBD drinks.
“A cannabis allergy doesn’t mean that, if you’re allergic to cannabis, you’re allergic to all the products that are cannabis,” says Sussman.
I took a few days off my experiment to consider options to total avoidance and decided to treat it like wine — tiny mouthfuls and a spittoon — so I could at least finish the story.
Day 8, I wish I could have sampled more of the Little Victory Blood Orange Soda ($5.95; 355mL; 0g sugar; 2.5mg THC; 2.5 mg CBD), because it was quite delicious: zesty and acidic, like one of those Italian orange sodas, but with a nice bitter edge.
When you pop open a can of Houseplant Grapefruit ($5.20; 355 mL; 0g sugar; 2.5mg THC; <1mg CBD), some intense citrus aromatics flood the air, promising great flavours, as you would expect from a Seth Rogen-designed drinkable. Sadly, the flavours start to fade, like the appeal of the “Pineapple Express” movie.
Day 9, I woke up at three in the morning worried about the United States Supreme Court. Since I was unable to get back to sleep, I tested Everie Mango Passionfruit CBD Sparkling Water ($5.95; 296 mL; 12g sugar; 0mg THC; 10mg CBD) against insomnia. It’s delicious, better even than the lemon-lime “expression.” I think it helped, but it still took a while to get back to sleep. Everie is good, but it appears to be no match for concerns over Roe v. Wade.
Day 10, House of Terpenes Limonene & Sparkling Tonic ($7.95; 355mL; 8g sugar, 5g THC; 5g CBD) tastes a little like a sparkling herbal tea; camomile, specifically. Tweed Houndstooth & Soda ($3.95; 355mL; 0g sugar; 2mg THC; <1mg CBD) tastes like hop-infused water and is a significant improvement on their ginger offering.
Finally, there’s Mollo ($5.95; 355mL; 4g sugar; 5mg THC; 5mg CBD), which is bottled in a brown stubby, just like Canadian beer in the olden times. It tastes like a spritzer version of something like Molson Stock Ale, with a dash of molasses. I kind of like it. But I have a one-ounce limit.
And, with that, my cann-adventure is over — likely forever. The takeaway is probably that, overall, they generally taste better than I’d have guessed. And more importantly, anyone wading in for the first time should be mindful of a potential allergy and consider asking an allergist for a test. It’s underdiagnosed and, doctors say, affects more people than most of us realize.
Postscript: All these drinkables (and more) are at the Ontario Cannabis Store, which also has a lot of resources to clarify the differences between indica and sativa, CBD and THC, and things that I think newbies shouldresearch before diving in.
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