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Labatt Green? Brewery, B.C. pot producer team up on booze-free cannabis drinks

The Labatt brewery is seen in Toronto Thursday March 31, 2005.
The Labatt brewery is seen in Toronto Thursday March 31, 2005. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Harris

One of the world’s biggest brewing conglomerates is partnering with a B.C. licenced cannabis producer with an eye to the future of the marijuana drink market.

AB InBev, the brewing behemoth that owns scores of brands worldwide, including Kokanee and Budweiser, says it has reached a deal with B.C.-based Tilray to research non-alcohol beverages with cannabis compounds tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD).

READ MORE: Molson enters into joint venture to develop cannabis infused beverages

THC is the psychoactive compound known for creating the marijuana “high,” while CBD is the compound sought out for its pain, inflammation and anxiety relief.

The partnership applies only to Canada, and will be executed through Labatt Breweries, another brewery in InBev’s portfolio, while Tilray will operate through a subsidiary called High Park Company.

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Both companies are investing up to US$50 million in the endeavour.

The deal does not address future decisions about the commercialization and sale of a potential cannabis drink.

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“We are delighted to be joining forces with a world-leading beverage company, AB InBev, to research how to create enjoyable cannabis beverage products,” said Tilray CEO Brendan Kennedy in a statement.

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“Labatt is committed to staying ahead of emerging consumer trends. As consumers in Canada explore THC and CBD-infused products, our innovative drive is matched only by our commitment to  the highest standards of product quality and responsible marketing,” said Labbatt Breweries of Canada president Kyle Norrington.

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“We look forward to learning more about these beverages and this category in the months ahead.”

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There are no legal cannabis beverages currently on the market, as the sale of cannabis edibles — including drinks — remains illegal in Canada. Such products are not expected to be legalized until the end of 2019 at the earliest.

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However, that hasn’t stopped companies looking to get an edge in what could be a hot future market.

Kelowna company Pacific Rim Brands is currently working with researchers at UBC and BCIT to develop formulas for cannabis-infused beverages that are safe, consistent and stable.

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Other beer giants like Molson Coors have also made investments in the field, and soft drink titans like Coca Cola have said they’re interested in CBD as a potential additive to “wellness beverages.”

In the U.S., cannabis drinks are already on the shelves in several jurisdictions where marijuana has been legalized.