Photo: Canva / Denys Gromov

Exploring THC-infused seltzers, sodas, and cocktails for social gatherings

Medically reviewed by Katherine Golden, RN

Whether you’re toasting a new year – new you, cheering for your favorite Super Bowl team, or kicking back with friends at a Memorial Day cookout, the odds are greater than ever that cannabis-infused seltzers, sodas, or cocktails might be part of your plan. While THC-infused beverages are modeled after more familiar alcoholic drinks like beer and hard spirits, their effects can be very different than an alcoholic buzz, especially for people who are new to cannabis as well as for casual cannabis users.

Key differences between alcoholic drinks and THC-infused drinks:

  • Psychoactive Effects: THC-infused drinks offer a unique psychoactive experience that’s distinct from an alcohol buzz.
  • Social Effects: Cannabis-infused beverages can bring about a different social dynamic compared to alcoholic drinks.
  • Onset and Duration: The effects of THC-infused beverages may differ significantly in terms of onset time and duration compared to the effects of alcoholic drinks.
  • After-effects: THC-infused beverages offer relaxation and euphoria and in most cases, without the risk of a hangover the next day.

More people are turning to cannabis beverages as a fun no-hangover alternative for celebrations, but is this product the best fit for you? We take a look at the state of THC beverages, including how much to drink and expected effects, so that you can go into your celebrations confident you’re making the best decisions around consumption.

Older man showing his friend a label on a cannabis-infused seltzer.
Photo: Canva / RGStudio

What are THC-infused beverages?

Cannabis-infused beverages contain a unique blend of cannabinoids that deliver a distinctive experience. THC-infused beers, seltzers, and pre-made cocktails offer a novel way to embrace cannabis in social settings, especially in indoor spaces where smoking and vaping may be frowned upon or prohibited. You can also find THC beverage powders and drops that can easily be added to non-alcoholic seltzer, water or juice to craft your own unique mixed drink.

Most cannabis beverages sold today use nanoemulsion technology that allows the THC to be more rapidly absorbed by the body, leading to faster effects that are more in line with smoking cannabis. Your own body’s endocannabinoid system also affects how quickly you’ll feel effects, as well as other factors like whether you’ve recently eaten.

Cannabis dispensary sign, where THC-infused beverages can be legally purchased.
Photo: Canva / A Melnyk

Are THC-infused beverages legal in my area?

Cannabis laws vary from state to state, but if medical cannabis or adult-use recreational cannabis is legal in your state, then THC-infused beverages will likely be available as an option in legal dispensaries.

State laws will also likely limit how much THC you can buy per day. This makes cannabis beverages different from alcohol that can be bought in bulk before a party. Keep the daily cannabis buying limits in mind if you’re planning to share sparkling cannabis beverages with legal-aged friends at a social gathering.

Also, keep in mind that state laws limit where you can consume THC products including cannabis-infused beverages. While a can of THC-infused seltzer may look just like a can of hard seltzer that contains alcohol, the laws are very different on public consumption of these two products.

Wooden letter blocks with the word “Wild” changing to “Mild” indicating different THC beverage strengths
Photo: Canva / Fokusiert

How strong are cannabis beverages?

The answer to this question is tricky. Cannabis beverage potencies are regulated at the state level. This means that depending on where you live, cannabis beverages may be limited to 5 mg THC or 10 mg of THC per serving or per can.

However, some states have much higher limits. For example, California allows the sale of adult-use cannabis beverages containing 100 mg THC per container, while Oklahoma’s medical cannabis laws allow for much more potent drinks that may contain 1000 mg THC per container.
Of course even if you live in a state that allows high-potency cannabis beverages, it’s likely that lower-potency options will be available for sale.
Your best bet is to always check the product label before consuming, checking both the amount of THC per serving, as well as the total milligrams of THC in the container.
As far as how much to partake, our guidance is to always start low and go slow, even if you’re experienced with other forms of cannabis.

Diverse set of friends having a cheerful summer rooftop party which includes THC-infused beverages.
Photo: Canva / Monkey Business Images

How will cannabis beverages make me feel?

THC-infused beverages can bring about a sense of relaxation, euphoria, and enhanced sociability.

However, individual responses can vary based on dosage, personal tolerance, and the social setting. That’s one reason we always recommend starting low and going slow, especially if you’re new to cannabis or trying THC-infused drinks for the first time.

For cannabis beverages, we suggest starting off with about one-quarter of the suggested serving size which should allow you to appreciate the effects while ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable experience. Keep in mind, however, the state’s mandated suggested serving size as well. For example, if your state allows 100mg to be the suggested serving size, then drinking one-quarter of that beverage is equivalent to 25mg of THC — this amount would be hard to tolerate unless you are a very seasoned consumer.

How soon will I feel the effects of a cannabis beverage?

When it comes to how cannabis-infused beverages make you feel, many cannabis consumers describe it as being different from smoking or consuming edibles. Fast-acting cannabis drinks made using nanoemulsion or other fast-acting technologies typically deliver rapid, noticeable effects if quickly ingested, while sipping on the drink provides a more gradual build-up of effects. The buzz from fast-acting cannabis beverages also wears off more quickly than a conventional cannabis edible.

While most cannabis beverages on the market today are fast-acting, that’s not always the case. A conventional cannabis beverage will rely on your digestive tract to metabolize the THC, with onset times that can vary from 30 minutes to several hours before effects are felt. Once the effects kick in, they may last up to 8-10 hours.

Cropped close-up image of clock face with minute hand approaching 12 o’clock.
Photo: Canva / STILLFX
Beer flight showing different alcoholic beer samples with cannabis buds scattered on the table, mixing beer and weed
Photo: Canva / Lauri Patterson

Can I mix THC and alcohol?

You may be wondering if you can mix cannabis and alcohol to get the best of both worlds, but most people find the combination falls short of expectations.

Here’s why that is: Cannabis and alcohol affect the body differently. Cannabis interacts with the endocannabinoid system, leading to relaxation, euphoria, and altered motor skills. On the other hand, alcohol primarily impacts the central nervous system, often causing disinhibition, impaired coordination, and slurred speech.

Combining cannabis and alcohol intensifies the effects of both substances, often in a contradictory way. People often report feeling dulled or “faded” when combining these two substances, or they’ll find themselves dealing with unwanted effects like dizziness, nausea, and increased impairment which affects decision-making and makes it harder to enjoy the moment. Additionally, the THC-alcohol combination can elevate heart rate and blood pressure, raising the risk of adverse health effects and accidents.

Don’t drink and drive — that extends to cannabis drinks, as well!

Never drive under the influence of cannabis, as it can slow your reaction time and reduce your ability to concentrate and perceive distance and time, leading to a higher risk of accidents. Also, many legal states have incorporated cannabis into their impaired driving laws, with costly penalties for anyone caught driving under the influence.

Instead, opt for alternative transportation (public transportation, taxi, or a rideshare service) or a designated driver when consuming cannabis. That way, you can relax and enjoy the festivities without worrying about how long the effects of that cannabis seltzer will last.

Sober designated driver taking keys from man who is consuming a cannabis-infused beverage.
Photo: Canva / Pixelshot
Group of friends around a table, laughing and enjoying cannabis spritzers and pizza.
Photo: Canva / PeopleImages Yuri Arcurs

Cheers to safely celebrating with THC-infused beverages!

Cannabis beverages provide a great alternative to alcohol, bringing a happy, elevated vibe to your celebrations. Understanding how these THC-infused drinks work and how much to use is a great first step to including cannabis sodas, seltzers, or cocktails into your event.

We know you might still have questions, though! Our Leaf411 cannabis-trained nurses are knowledgeable about all of the cannabis products on the market today, including THC-infused beverages, and can provide specific guidance on consuming cannabis beverages, effects, or any other concerns you may have. Jump to our home page and click the “Let’s Talk” button to get started with a personal consultation with one of our cannabis nurses!