The Illicit Alcohol Market Is Way Bigger Than You Think

Illicit drugs are all the rage in news reporting; but often, one of the biggest illicit markets is practically ignored. Sure, we hear about weed busts around the world, and methamphetamine busts, and opioid busts. But what about the most popular drug? Alcohol is the most consumed drug in the world, and the illicit alcohol market is way bigger than you think.

Alcohol prohibition

Alcohol is pretty free-flowing in most parts of the world, and has been throughout our recorded history. However, for a brief period in the early 1900’s, it was criminalized on nearly a global level. This period, called ‘prohibition’ lasted between 1920-1933 in America; during which time, the production, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages, was a criminal activity. This legal change was brought on by the temperance movement, a group which pushed abstinence, or extreme regulation of certain behaviors.

The movement started in the late 1800’s, as many small groups around the country. According to Britannica, by 1833, there were 6,000 of them across the different states. These organizations were highly associated with women’s movements, and some specifically state it in the name; like the famous Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, which became an international movement.

Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the temperance movement, was in banning alcohol. In December 1917, the Eighteenth Amendment (aka Volstead Act) passed both sides of congress. It was ratified by ¾ of states in 2019, and had plenty of support in order to do both of these things. The National Prohibition Act was later passed as a means of regulating this new decision.

Prohibition led to illicit alcohol market

But history shows that the movement either wasn’t as far reaching as expected, or not 100% supported, among supporters. Plenty wanted to drink illegally, which created an entire bootlegging industry of illicit alcohol. Alcohol was often brewed up in bathtubs, and sold in speakeasies; with organized criminal groups backing the whole thing. In fact, it was bootlegging that built up some of the bigger crime families of the 1900’s.

By the 1928 presidential elections, it was a big topic. Herbert Hoover won, and prohibition remained, despite the obvious and growing cracks in the exterior. Not only was it not being adhered to, to the point of a growing illicit market, but it was a practically unenforceable rule. Franklin Roosevelt entered office in 1933, and quickly changed things around. He did this by way of the Cullen-Harrison Act, which modified the existing Eighteenth Amendment. This modification allowed the production and sale of beer and wine with up to 3.2% alcohol.

Nine months later, even that was updated; and prohibition was quickly a thing of the past. As the Eighteenth amendment was an actual amendment to the constitution, it was gotten rid of, by way of yet another amendment; number 21. This repealed the Volstead Act federally, and gave states the right to make their own local laws. Until this and the Cullen-Harrison Act, the entirety of the alcohol market was illicit. This is similar to the cannabis industry today, which seeks to divert from what was a 100% illegal industry. In both cases, the drug was legal prior to prohibitive measures.

How big is illicit alcohol world of today?

It’s hard to know how much of the market prior to prohibition, was illicit. There were different laws that governed drinking at the time, and it was a long time ago. Sure, we have records, but not everything was recorded, or is easy to find in research today. Logically there was some amount of illicit trade, but this would have increased hugely during prohibition. Now is a totally different time period; nearly a hundred years after prohibition ended, and over a hundred since it started. Chances are, a lot of the illicit alcohol market of today, started back in prohibition times.

A 2022 report published by OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), presented some startling information about the nature of today’s illicit alcohol market. And its one of the biggest illicit markets out there. The report cites WHO 2018 data for the year 2016, that puts the size at that time as 25% of all alcohol sales worldwide. Not only that, the WHO estimated that by 2025, this would increase to 27.7%.

In terms of where this is seen most, it varies greatly between countries; although, how exact WHO information is for an illicit market, is always questionable, as most data comes from seizures and arrests only. Even so, that the organization estimates it so highly, certainly says a lot. According to the WHO, the Mediterranean region has a very high illicit alcohol trade, as much as 67%. Whereas it says the Americas are only about 14%.

US has illicit alcohol market
US has illicit alcohol market

The writers also draw a distinction between richer and poorer countries. Poorer countries consumed way more illegally bought alcohol; lower-middle income countries about 37%, and low income countries about 44%. Africa as a whole, the Mediterranean region (where alcohol is illegal in many places), and Southeast Asia had the largest illicit markets. Higher income countries had numbers closer to 11%; the US had a rate of 14%.

So a lot of alcohol gets sold illegally. How much does this bring in, in terms of revenue? The report suggests that approximately 42.3 million hectolitres of alcohol get consumed yearly and globally, and that 25.8% is illicit. This 25.8% is worth approximately $19.4 billion in revenue for black market operations. As a comparison, the entire legal cannabis industry in the US was estimated to have brought in about $24-$30 billion in 2022, according to MJBizDaily. Global illicit alcohol sales are equivalent to at the very least, 2/3-4/5, of this number.

What illegal alcohol is sold most?

We generally break alcoholic beverages into three main groups: beer, wine, and spirits. These different types of alcoholic drinks, are relevant to their own illicit markets. And it doesn’t match up in terms of what is drank the most in general, and what shows up most on the illicit market.

Beer is the most commonly consumed alcoholic beverage worldwide according to the report. Globally it accounts for 52.9% of the legal market. However, it only supports about 10% of the illegal market. On the other hand, an estimated 81% of the illicit trade, is related to distilled spirits of a higher value. Wine and other alcoholic beverages like cider, comprise about 9% of the illegal market. This means they collectively take up about as much as beer in terms of illegal sales.

The thing is, technically, not all the alcohol reported in the report as illicit, is entirely illicit. Or, at least, its not all necessarily illegally produced. The report lists the definition for illicit alcohol to include the following: anything contraband or smuggled (this could include legally sold products), counterfeit alcohol, products that don’t meet regulation, products with misleading packaging or false statements, alcohol made by legal companies but done secretly, and not-for-drinking alcohol like mouthwash or antifreeze.

Some of these aren’t regular alcohol at all. Some could have ‘fallen off the truck,’ and some could be the product of companies that lose their licensing, but otherwise produce the same product. This is not a measure of the alcohol made illegally, it’s a measure of the alcohol sold illegally. The report indicates that the idea of illicit can include products of companies that failed to pay taxes; which is a different world from smuggling, or counterfeiting, or brewing it up in your bathtub.

Legal vs illicit alcohol sales
Legal vs illicit alcohol sales

Why don’t we see a bunch of headlines about illicit alcohol?

25% is a full quarter of the market. If we just look at the US, that’s at least 14% of its market. It’s certainly not nothing, especially as its forecast to increase. So, why don’t we hear about it? We hear all the time about how vape products hurt children (never mind that they don’t, and that vapes save people from smoking damage). We hear all the time about illegal fentanyl (never mind the legal market). But alcohol? Where are the stories blaring about fake alcohol dangers? I mean, alcohol kills people all the time; in fact, its the biggest killer of all drugs (as smoking is a method of consumption, NOT an actual drug.)

My guess is because prohibition already happened. Alcohol represents an industry that cannot be rooted out easily, because of the basic production ability. It already proved itself that way to an enormous and uncompromising degree. There is zero policy push to get rid of it now. Likely no politician is going to get behind a new prohibition measure for alcohol, because they’ll lose their seat. End of story. So its preferable not to mention the details since there’s no action pushed. What we hear about, are stories where there is some action being pushed.

We hear about weed, and tobacco products, and opioids, because governments seem to want to decide how we feel about those things, and how we purchase them. It no longer tries to do that with alcohol. So while alcohol poses perhaps the biggest issue of all the drugs (way overshadowing opioids in its destructiveness), the public doesn’t hear much about it, because its not a fight for their opinions anymore.


The illicit alcohol market is rather big and only expected to grow. As countries like Canada report on their lowered sales volume, the question becomes; where are people buying their alcohol now, if not from legal providers? I think the OECD report explains it all. They’re likely buying it illegally. If prohibition didn’t stop drinking, why would raised prices? Perhaps there should be caution with raising prices, when its known this bolsters black market sales. And perhaps that should be generalized to the cannabis market. Otherwise, it greatly seems like governments really don’t learn from history, at all.

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Ganja Gastronomy

Consuming cannabis together with friends, loved ones, or even strangers, is a time-honored tradition. It’s a communal elevation of bodies and minds in a shared space as we seek connection and camaraderie. Inspired by this meaningful experience, Arizona-based Cloth & Flame creates unique cannabis-infused meals incorporating a scientific flair of molecular gastronomy that stretch the culinary possibilities of cannabis.

Cloth & Flame hosts private events, such as corporate gatherings or weddings, but it also offers popular limited ticket events as well (it’s important to note that some are centered around cannabis consumption, while others are not). Instead of operating from a single brick-and-mortar restaurant, Cloth & Flame’s dining experiences are hosted in a variety of unique locations, from historic buildings to stunning landscapes both in Arizona and in other states.

Cloth & Flame’s “Verde Series” in particular offers a communal cannabis experience with elaborate entertainment, atmosphere, and infused food to create an experience that diners will never forget.

Photo by Winona Grey

Founded in 2017 by husband-and-wife duo Matt Cooley and Olivia Laux, Cloth & Flame’s goal is to create unique experiences that unite attendees.

“People love to experience things like they belong to a community and they get to experience these beautiful places and it opens them up to each other,” Cooley says.

Behind the scenes of Cloth & Flame is a dedicated team of individuals working to ensure that their respective areas of focus deliver a spectacular impact. The result is an impressive display of themes, but Cooley explains that the guests themselves are always the most important part of the experience.

“Like they, the people attending, are actually the thing everyone else is experiencing the most fully,” Cooley says. “Our work is just kind of like, it’s a structure and a catalyst. It’s not the experience. The experience is the people.”

The first event in the Verde Series was entitled “Homegrown” and was held shortly after Arizona adult-use cannabis sales began in 2021. Other previous Verdes Series themes included “High Country,” “Flower to Table,” and “Hi Fi,” but the most recent ticketed cannabis event was the fifth, called “High Tea,” and was held at the 113-year-old building known as The Icehouse in Phoenix, Arizona on April 20-21.

Head in the Clouds, photo by Winona Grey

The High Tea event was limited to just over 100 guests. Within the grand entrance of The Icehouse, there was an installment of billowing clouds situated in front of an infinity mirror. Huge green curtains were hung around the space and the event began with a photo op consisting of moss-covered lawn chairs for tarot card and tea readings.

Upon arriving, attendees were served an infused beverage with a smoke bubble on top that popped when they took the first sip. The drink contained a 2 mg water-soluble THC distillate, a low dose that allowed consumers to gauge how much cannabis they’d like to consume further based on their personal tolerance and experience.

Cloth & Flame’s dining experience included an assortment of menu items that were thoughtfully crafted to represent the theme of High Tea. For that particular event, the multi-course meal was infused with cannabis products from Copperstate Farms, a Snowflake, Arizona-based cannabis company. Cloth & Flame’s chef Cassie Shortino and cannabis dosing expert Ivo Knehnetsky shed light on the thought and innovation behind some of the evening’s creative and nostalgic menu items.

“The whole dinner went back and forth between using CBD, THC, water-soluble THC, and water-soluble CBN in order for each guest to go on a little cannabinoid roller coaster,” Knehnetsky says. “The intention was that as the dinner progressed, each guest would feel the calming effects of CBD, then followed by the medicating effects of THC, finished with the sedative effects of CBN.”

“Passed bites” such as Copenhagen-style hot dogs (which contained 2 mg THC) were also available, an appetizer that Knehnetsky explains were inspired by his personal experience eating “some of the best hot dogs” he’s ever had in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“I had to recreate that moment of joy for this Verde Series dinner and did my best to include all the same toppings that I fell in love with in Copenhagen,” Knehnetsky says.

Smoke Show, photo by Winona Grey

Shortino credits culinary team member Kentin Cullymore as the creator of the warm Hokkaido milk buns (2 mg CBD) served with house-made jelly and butter that were served later at the table, describing the dish as “reminiscent of peanut butter and jelly.”

“Ivo and I designed the menu together and truly it was just a combination of ideas that would be delicious to eat high,” Shortino says. 

Other menu items included a taco salad bowl, cucumber mint popsicles, and prawn panang curry. One of the final items on the menu was a “Head in the Clouds” jasmine rose tea (2 mg CBD) that was served with a cloud of cotton candy on top that melted when hot water was poured into the cup.

More unique Cloth & Flame events such as the High Tea dinner are in development—keep an eye on their website for upcoming announcements.

This article was originally published in the July 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.

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Beat the Summer Heat with Canna-Cocktails

Mixology is considered by some to be a combination of art and science. Bartenders skillfully combine various spirits, liqueurs, fresh ingredients and garnishes to create unique and innovative cocktails that tantalize taste buds and ignite the senses. As cannabis continues to become more widely accepted, a new mixology movement has emerged, replacing traditional spirits with THC-infused cocktails, also known as canna-cocktails that are made using cannabis tinctures.

These potent plant-based extracts open a world of possibilities for adventurous enthusiasts looking to try out unique flavor combinations and experience the relaxing effects of cannabis in a social and sophisticated setting. With its odorless, flavorless and colorless characteristics, Everclear grain alcohol serves as the perfect base for creating cannabis tinctures that can be used to make a wide variety of ingestible cannabis products.

The Benefits of Using Everclear to Make Tinctures

Everclear has long been a beloved staple within the cannabis community for crafting top-notch tinctures, thanks to its high alcohol content and purity. The premium grain alcohol boasts a concentration of 95% alcohol by volume (190 proof) and 75.5% (151 proof), ranking it among the top choices for homemade cannabis tinctures.

Food-grade, high-proof grain alcohol is traditionally used to extract terpenes and cannabinoids from the plant. Everclear’s high alcohol percentage effectively dissolves the cannabis plant’s compounds, resulting in a more potent and effective end product.

One of the most significant advantages of using tinctures in cocktails is dosage control. Unlike other cannabis-infused products, tinctures allow for precise dosing, making it easier to control the effects of the cannabis and create a more predictable experience—perfect for canna-cocktails. In case you missed it, you can learn how to make cannabis tinctures at home in part five of our Everclear Series.

Balancing Flavors in Canna-Cocktails

The key to creating delicious cannabis cocktails is balancing the terpenes from the cannabis with the other cocktail ingredients. The earthy, herbaceous notes of cannabis tinctures can add depth to a cocktail when properly paired with complementary flavors. Just like any mixologist worth their salt, experimenting with different ingredients is crucial.

Citrusy and fruity flavors often work well with cannabis tinctures. Lemon, lime, orange and berries can provide a bright and refreshing contrast to the cannabis, creating a harmonious balance on the palate. Herbal ingredients such as basil, mint and thyme can enhance the natural cannabis flavors and add complexity to the flavor profile.

Sip and Savor in the Summer Sun

Cannabis cocktails are perfect for summer because they offer a refreshing and enjoyable way to combine the relaxation of cannabis with the vibrant flavors of summer beverages. The effects of cannabis can complement the laid-back and sunny vibe of the season, providing a delightful way to unwind and enhance outdoor gatherings and activities. Canna-cocktails can be customized with a variety of fruits, herbs and mixers to make versatile and creative options to cool you off and savor the flavors of summer.

So, if you’re throwing a party or need a creative hostess gift for your next outdoor fling, consider making one of these three refreshing canna-cocktails using Everclear cannabis tinctures.

Tropical Pineapple

Enjoy the taste of a tropical paradise.


  • 2 oz pineapple juice
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz agave syrup (or any sweetener of choice)
  • 1 dropper (approx. 1 ml) of cannabis tincture (adjust according to your desired potency)
  • 4-6 fresh mint leaves
  • Pineapple chunks and mint sprigs for garnish
  • Ice
  • Sparkling water (optional, for fizz)


  1. In a cocktail shaker, muddle the fresh mint leaves with lime juice and agave syrup.
  2. Add the pineapple juice and cannabis tincture to the shaker.
  3. Fill the shaker with ice and shake well.
  4. Strain the mixture into a glass filled with ice.
  5. If desired, top it off with sparkling water for a fizzy twist.
  6. Garnish with pineapple chunks and a sprig of mint.

Berry Lemonade Refresher

Sip on this refreshing cannabis-infused berry lemonade for a burst of summer flavors.


  • 2 oz lemonade (store-bought or homemade)
  • 1 oz mixed berry juice (blend fresh strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries and strain the juice)
  • 1/2 oz agave syrup (or any sweetener of choice)
  • 1 dropper (approx. 1 ml) of cannabis tincture (adjust according to your desired potency)
  • Lemon slices
  • Mixed berries (optional) for garnish
  • Ice
  • Sparkling water (optional, for extra fizz)


  1. In a glass, mix together the lemonade, mixed berry juice, and agave syrup.
  2. Add the cannabis tincture and stir well.
  3. Fill the glass with ice.
  4. If desired, top it off with a splash of sparkling water for extra fizziness.
  5. Garnish with lemon slices and a few berries.

Cucumber Mint Spritzer

Savor the cool and revitalizing flavors of this cannabis-infused cucumber mint spritzer to beat the summer heat.


  • 2 oz cucumber juice (blend the peeled cucumber and strain the juice)
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz agave syrup (or any sweetener of choice)
  • 1 dropper (approx. 1 ml) of cannabis tincture (adjust according to your desired potency)
  • 4-6 fresh mint leaves
  • Cucumber slices and mint sprigs for garnish
  • Ice
  • Sparkling water (optional, for effervescence)


  1. In a cocktail shaker, muddle fresh mint leaves with lime juice and agave syrup.
  2. Add the cucumber juice and cannabis tincture to the shaker.
  3. Fill the shaker with ice and shake well.
  4. Strain the mixture into a glass filled with ice.
  5. If desired, top it off with a splash of sparkling water for a fizzy spritz.
  6. Garnish with cucumber slices and a sprig of mint.

PLEASE ENJOY RESPONSIBLY. Everclear® Grain Alcohol is 75.5%-95% Alc./Vol. (120-190 Proof), ©2023 Luxco®, Inc., St. Louis, MO.

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Tilray Acquires Eight Brands From Anheuser-Busch In Major Deal

The Canadian cannabis company Tilray Brands announced on Monday that it had reached an agreement with brewing giant Anheuser-Busch to acquire eight beer and beverage brands.

It is yet another bid by Tilray to expand its footprint in the craft brewing space. Last year, the company acquired the New York-based beer company Montauk Brewing.

The company said that the “expected sales volume of the acquired brands [in Monday’s deal] will elevate Tilray Brands to the 5th largest craft beer business position in the U.S., up from the 9th.”

“Today’s announcement both solidifies our national leadership position and share in the U.S. craft brewing market and marks a major step forward in our diversification strategy,” Tilray Brands CEO and chairman Irwin D. Simon said in a statement on Monday’s deal with Anheuser-Busch. “We are excited to work with the teams behind these iconic brands that command great consumer loyalty and have a history of delivering strong award-winning products with tremendous growth opportunities. Tilray is fully committed to invest in and champion the future of the U.S. craft beer industry by fueling new innovation that excites and further accelerates the growth of its consumer base.”

With the deal, Tilray is acquiring a host of popular brands, including Shock Top, Breckenridge Brewery and Blue Point Brewing Company. The acquisition also includes 10 Barrel Brewing Company, Redhook Brewery, Widmer Brothers Brewing, Square Mile Cider Company, and HiBall Energy.

According to Monday’s announcement, the acquisition “includes current employees, breweries and brewpubs associated with these brands,” and the “purchase price will be paid in all cash and the transaction is expected to close in 2023.”

Simon said that the deal will significantly increase the company’s “national distribution to coveted markets across the U.S. and internationally.” 

“In a matter of three years, Tilray has solidified its leadership position in the craft beer industry, and we fully intend to be that change agent that reinvigorates the sector. Upon federal cannabis legalization, we expect to leverage our leadership position, wide distribution network and portfolio of beloved beverage and wellness brands to include THC-based products and maximize all commercial opportunities,” Simon said. 

Tilray acquired Montauk Brewing in November, a deal the company said at the time provided “enormous potential to expand its customer base and grow throughout the U.S. as a true national brand.” Montauk was added to a portfolio that already included SweetWater Brewing Company, which Tilray acquired in 2020.

“Tilray Brands continues to strengthen our U.S. footprint and operations through investments in and growing our portfolio of leading lifestyle CPG brands that resonate powerfully with consumers,” Simon said then. “Montauk Brewing is an iconic brand with leading market share and distribution in the northeast. Tilray Brands intends to leverage SweetWater’s existing nationwide infrastructure and Montauk Brewing’s northeast influence to significantly expand our distribution network and drive profitable growth in our beverage-alcohol segment. This distribution network is part of Tilray’s strategy to leverage our growing portfolio of U.S. CPG brands and ultimately to launch THC-based product adjacencies upon federal legalization in the U.S.”

At the time of the announcement, the company also said that it was appointing Ty H. Gilmore to serve in the newly created position of “president of Tilray’s U.S. beer business.”

On Monday, Gilmore said that, through the deal with Anheuser-Busch “our beer business is expected to triple in size from 4 million cases to 12 million cases annually.” 

“Looking ahead, we will further capitalize on the potential of these brands through product innovation, retailer partnerships and expanded distribution into key markets, including the Pacific Northwest and California,” Gilmore said.

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House Panel Calls On FDA To Regulate CBD For Foods, Beverages

Hemp advocates and industry leaders last week called on the federal government to ease access to cannabidiol as a House of Representatives subcommittee held a hearing to investigate the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s refusal to regulate CBD as an ingredient in foods, beverages and dietary supplements.

At Thursday’s hearing of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee’s Subcommittee on Health Care and Financial Services, lawmakers and witnesses criticized the FDA’s refusal to regulate CBD and noted how the agency’s inaction on the subject has impacted individuals and families eager to take advantage of the cannabinoid’s health and wellness benefits. 

“Lack of a federal framework has led to the proliferation of unregulated products, some of which raise significant quality, safety, and other consumer protection concerns,” Jonathan Miller, general counsel for the industry group the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, told the members of the subcommittee.

In opening remarks prepared for the hearing, Republican Representative Lisa McClain, the chair of the subcommittee, noted that “if you buy a CBD consumer product off the shelf today, in many cases there’s no way for the average consumer to verify its purity or even the amount of CBD in it, or rely on FDA’s enforcement of regulations. 

“In fact, one study that tested almost 3,000 CBD products showed that only one-quarter of brands test their CBD products for purity and only sixteen percent of products tested contained exclusively what was stated on their labels,” McClain continued. “That’s because FDA hasn’t regulated CBD as a dietary supplement or food additive in the five years since hemp was legalized.”

Hemp Legalized In 2018

Congress legalized hemp agriculture and commerce five years ago with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. But since then, the FDA has refused to regulate hemp-derived CBD for use in foods, beverages and dietary supplements, and in January announced it would not do so without further legislation from Congress.

“This announcement has led to confusion and uncertainty in the market, which has suppressed the ability for good faith manufacturers to sell CBD products,” she said. “It only benefits bad actors who capitalize on the confusion and the flood of the market with potentially unsafe products. The FDA must do better and use their already existing authority to regulate how derived products you know actually do the job they were signed up to do.”

Witnesses also emphasized how the lack of a regulatory framework for hemp-derived CBD from the FDA has also contributed to the proliferation of products containing intoxicating cannabinoids, most prominently delta-8 THC, which are being sold in unregulated products, sometimes to minors. While none of the witnesses called for the criminalization of these products, they called for strict safety regulations to keep them out of the hands of children.

“In many states, including Kentucky, most delta-8 THC products are sold through unregulated market sources like convenience stores, smoke shops, gas stations, and even can be ordered online. These products are not reliably tested and have been found to contain many impurities,” said Richard A. Badaracco, president-elect of the Kentucky Narcotic Officers Association and a retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent. “Assuming these products remain legal, the optimal approach is following the lead of Kentucky, whose General Assembly this year passed legislation unanimously to strictly regulate these products and keep them out of the hands of minors.”

Paige Figi, founder of the Coalition for Access Now, has been an outspoken advocate of CBD for more than a decade after discovering it significantly reduced the seizures suffered by her daughter Charlotte, who died in 2020 at the age of 13 following a nearly lifelong battle with intractable epilepsy. After watching last week’s hearing from her home in Colorado Springs, Figi called on the FDA to ease access to CBD for families across the country.

“We have been united with families, athletes, seniors, veterans, and others who rely on the benefits of CBD for almost a decade. Today’s hearing shows that common sense, bipartisan reform to push the FDA to do its job and regulate hemp-derived CBD as a dietary supplement is close,” Figi wrote in an email to High Times. “The 45 million Americans who rely on the benefits CBD for their chronic conditions are encouraged that members of Congress will stand up for their constituents to pass legislation that will support access for patients now.”

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CBD Liquid Products Often Short On CBD, Report Says

Some CBD products may not be all they seem, according to newly published analysis

Researchers from the United Kingdom assessed a variety of CBD-based liquid products –– tinctures, oils, e-liquids and beverages –– that are sold online in Britain. 

“Cannabidiol (CBD)-containing products are sold widely in consumer stores, but concerns have been raised regarding their quality, with notable discrepancies between advertised and actual CBD content. Information is limited regarding how different types of CBD products may differ in their deviation from advertised CBD concentrations,” the researchers wrote in an introduction to the analysis, which was published this month in the Journal of Cannabis Research.

The researchers purchased 13 aqueous tinctures, 29 oils, 10 e-liquids and 11 drinks on the internet.

“CBD concentrations were quantified in aqueous tinctures, oils and e-liquids via high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), and in drinks via gas chromatography-mass spectrometry,” they explained.

Ultimately, the researchers found that many of the products were misleadingly labeled. 

“Measured concentrations fell -25.7 ± 17.3, -6.1 ± 7.8, -6.9 ± 4.6 and – 0.03 ± 0.06 mg/mL below advertised concentrations for aqueous tinctures, oils, e-liquids and drinks, respectively,” they wrote in their explanation of the study’s results. 

“Oils deviated relatively less (-19.0 ± 14.5%) from advertised concentrations than e-liquids (-29.2 ± 10.2%), aqueous tinctures (-51.4 ± 41.4%) and drinks (-65.6 ± 36.5%; p < .01), whilst e-liquids deviated less than aqueous tinctures and drinks (p < .05), and deviation was not different between aqueous tinctures and drinks (p = .19). Only 5/63 (8%) products had measured concentrations within 10% of advertised concentrations,” the researchers added.

The researchers noted that, similar to previous studies on the subject, “few products had measured CBD concentrations within 10% of advertised concentrations, with most falling below advertised concentrations.”

“All individual product types deviated from advertised concentrations, with oils deviating least. These findings may be indicative of poor manufacturing standards, or that CBD undergoes degradation in consumer products,” they wrote in their conclusion. “This reinforces concerns over quality of CBD-containing consumer products and may highlight the need for improved regulation of such products.”

CBD products have proliferated considerably around the world in recent years, including in the United States. But although they are legal, those products are often woefully unregulated, leaving consumers in the dark as to what is –– and isn’t –– in the stuff that they are buying.

Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill reintroduced legislation that would place CBD products under the regulatory eye of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Despite being legally grown in the United States for nearly five years, hemp and hemp-derived CBD are still in a regulatory gray zone that puts consumers at risk and holds producers back,” said Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, one of the co-sponsors of the bill. “The FDA says it needs Congress to act. We’ve got the bill to ensure equal and safe access to hemp-derived CBD.”

In a press release, the group of senators and representatives explained that currently “the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act prohibits any new dietary ingredient, food, or beverage from entering the market if it has been studied or approved as a drug.”

“The FDA has the authority to exempt items from this prohibition, but has yet to exempt hemp-derived CBD, despite Congressional action to legalize its production and sale. By exempting hemp- derived CBD from the prohibition, the Hemp Access and Consumer Safety Act will allow FDA to regulate hemp-derived CBD like all other new dietary ingredients, foods, and beverages,” the press release said.

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The Winners of the High Times Cannabis Cup SoCal: People’s Choice Edition 2023

We’re happy to announce that we’ve just concluded our third High Times Cannabis Cup SoCal: People’s Choice Edition, and the competition was hot! This year featured 12 categories for a total of 36 products narrowed down as first, second, or third place winners for 2023. Among these top winners you’ll find famous brands like Fig Farms, Team Elite Genetics, Papa’s Select, Top Shelf Cultivation, Maven Genetics, but also a few you may not be as familiar with. But whether it’s a famous or up-and-coming brand, the people of Southern California judged a wide variety of products that led to these winners today.

Each of these winners will receive an exclusive High Times trophy, which is made from 24K gold plated zinc, and designed by Alex and Allyson Grey. It’s decorated with molecular symbols of cannabinoids at the base, double twin serpents spiraling around the neck of the chalice, a cannabis leaf design, and an inscription that reads: “Hail cannabis, ancient sacramental healing ally of humanity.” It’s a fitting phrase to honor all of the products that have come before judges in past People’s Choice and live High Times Cannabis Cup events.

As the sun sets on People’s Choice Edition for Southern California, it certainly isn’t the end for the competition, because great cannabis products can be found across the country. Check out the upcoming winners for our People’s Choice Edition competitions coming up in New Mexico in September (with a live awards show and concert by Method Man and Redman), Illinois awards in November, and Oregon awards in December too!

Indica Flower

First Place: Fig Farms – Blue Face

Courtesy Fig Farms

Second Place: TopShelf Cultivation – Whoa Si Whoa

Courtesy TopShelf Cultivation

Third Place: Team Elite Genetics – Styrofoam Cup

Courtesy Team Elite Genetics

Sativa Flower

First Place: Maven Genetics – Orange Bellini

Courtesy Maven Genetics

Second Place: A Golden State – Lava Flower

Courtesy A Golden State

Third Place: Seed Junky – Gello Shotz

Courtesy Seed Junky

Hybrid Flower

First Place: Fig Farms – Animal Face

Courtesy Fig Farms

Second Place: Maven Genetics – French Laundry

Courtesy Maven Genetics

Third Place: TopShelf Cultivation – Peanut Butter Breath

Non-Infused Pre-Rolls

First Place: Waferz – Rainbow Sherbet Pre-Roll

Courtesy Waferz

Second Place: Lumpy’s Flowers – Capital Haze Pre-Roll

Courtesy Lumpy’s Flowers

Third Place: Green Dragon – Becky Pre-Roll

Courtesy Green Dragon

Infused Pre-Rolls

First Place: Waferz – Neapolitan x Runtz Infused Pre-Roll

Courtesy Waferz

Second Place: Packwoods – Take Off Yoda OG x Skywalker Hash Rosin Infused Pre-Roll

Courtesy Packwoods

Third Place: Stoney – Watermelon Infused Pre-Roll

Courtesy Stoney

Solvent Concentrates

First Place: URSA – Ice Cream Cake Live Resin

Courtesy URSA

Second Place: Bear Labs – Jelly Rancher Diamonds

Courtesy Bear Labs

Third Place: Jetty – Tropicana Cherry Live Sugar & Sauce

Courtesy Jetty

Non-Solvent Concentrates

First Place: Papa’s Select – Satsuma Sherb Premium Live Rosin

Courtesy Papa’s Select

Second Place: Team Elite Genetics – Styrofoam Cup Cold Cure Live Rosin Badder

Courtesy Team Elite Genetics

Third Place: Bear Labs – Donny Burger Live Rosin

Courtesy Bear Labs

Vape Pens & Cartridges

First Place: Stoney – Watermelon Live Resin Disposable Vape Pen

Courtesy Stoney

Second Place: Jetty – Orange Sherbert Live Rosin Vape

Courtesy Jetty

Third Place: Rove – Watermelon Zkittlez Live Resin Diamond Vape

Courtesy Rove

Edibles: Gummies & Fruit Chews

First Place: Paradise Club – Strawberry Sunshine Gummies

Courtesy Paradise Club

Second Place: Happy Fruit – Moon Berry Rosin Gummies

Courtesy Happy Fruit

Third Place: Marmas – Georgia Peach Indica Fruit Bites

Courtesy Marmas

Edibles: Chocolates & Non-Gummies

First Place: P&B Kitchen – Caramel Filled Milk Chocolates

Courtesy P&B Kitchen

Second Place: Bhang – Milk Chocolate Bar

Courtesy Bhang

Third Place: Infused Edibles – Mac & Cheese Take & Make Kit

Courtesy Infused Edibles

Edibles: Beverages

First Place: Mari y Juana Beverages Co. – iGuava! 50mg THC Soft Drink

Courtesy Mari y Juana Beverages Co.

Second Place: Bodega – Pineapple Cooler Beverage

Courtesy Bodega

Third Place: Uncle Arnie’s – Iced tea Lemonade Beverage

Courtesy Uncle Arnie’s

Topicals, Tinctures, Capsules & Sublinguals

First Place: Mary’s Medicinals – 1:1 CBD:THC Transdermal Patch

Courtesy Mary’s Medicinals

Second Place: Tripp Therapeutics – Groovy Greens Calming Body Butter

Courtesy Tripp Therapeutics

Third Place: Papa & Barkley – CBD:THC:CBN Sleep Releaf Capsules

Courtesy Papa & Barkley

A very special thank you to our partners and sponsors!

Traditional – Presenting Sponsor

HONEY – Gold Sponsor

Top Shelf Cultivation – Silver Sponsor

HEIGHTS – General Sponsor

Moxie – Official Intake Partner

Have a Heart – Official Retailer Partner

High Times Dispensaries – Official Retailer Partner

Kush Alley – Official Retailer Partner

The post The Winners of the High Times Cannabis Cup SoCal: People’s Choice Edition 2023 appeared first on High Times.

Take the Edge Off With HIBEGONE

We’ve all been there. You take too fat a dab or eat too many gummies (or brownies for the OGs) and suddenly you’re launched into outer space. You then realize, to your horror, that you have to work/pick up your kids/attend a family function in a couple hours. While there’s no proven way to completely kill your high—aside from eating an entire Cravings box from Taco Bell and laying on the lawn gripping the grass to keep you from falling off the astral plane in which you projected—there is a handy little shot that can, at the very least, take the edge off and significantly shorten the duration of your hash-induced daze.

Enter HIBEGONE. This proprietary formula comes in a convenient 5 Hour Energy-looking bottle and lives up to its name. Formulated with ingredients to counteract the negative side effects of too much THC, HIBEGONE is the first product of its kind to make such claims. 


So What’s in it?

L-Theanine is a clinically studied amino acid that has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels, helping to eliminate arguably the worst part of getting too stoned: paranoia. There is nothing worse than spiraling about that one awkward thing you said at a dinner party three months ago or thinking too hard about whether or not you turned your flat iron off before you left home. 

Alpha-GPC improves focus and cognitive function, with evidence suggesting that this organic compound increases the release of acetylcholine—a key neurotransmitter that plays a role in memory. Theoretically, intake of Alpha-GPC could alleviate symptoms like forgetfulness, a hallmark of being high as a kite. Will it help you find your phone and car keys? That remains to be seen. 

THCV is a unique cannabinoid that can interrupt and block the connection of THC, thereby reversing its effects. The CB1 antagonist is a known appetite suppressant (no more munchies!) and up-regulates energy metabolism, which is a fancy way of saying it mimics a stimulant. With HIBEGONE, you can free yourself of the compulsive urge to gorge yourself on ice cream and pizza until you’re sick and find the strength to peel away from the very comfortable couch you’ve melted into.


Does HIBEGONE Actually Work?

I tried the Monkfruit sweetened after-cannabis aid following a short tolerance break and a gigantic bong rip. You know, the ones that make you cough so hard you get lightheaded. Needless to say, I was flying. Now that I’m in my thirties, I notice that my anxiety spikes when I pass a certain threshold of stoned-ness and my highs last longer than they did in my twenties. Call it getting older, call it a decreased tolerance, I just can’t handle my weed like I used to. 

I suspiciously shook the small plastic bottle, chugged the bubblegum-flavored liquid and waited. Normally when I get baked I like to get very comfy and do a mindless and stationary activity like watch South Park or scribble crappy poetry in my journal in a feeble attempt to avoid the relentless deluge of intrusive thoughts. After about twenty minutes I noticed the brain fog, racing thoughts, and physical heaviness lifting ever-so-slightly. I had energy to do the dishes. After thirty minutes I had the mental clarity to make a to-do list for the week and not get distracted by the cat or sucked into TikTok. 

At forty-five minutes post-ingestion I realized I wasn’t really that high anymore. Usually the first smoke after a t-break lingers for hours, but it was *almost* like I never smoked at all. My eyes weren’t half shut, I wasn’t sleepy. Hell, I wasn’t even that hungry. I don’t know if it was a placebo-effect psychological trick I was playing on myself, but regardless, I possessed the cognition (and anxiety levels) to get out of the house and run errands. If there’s one thing about me, I hate being in public places when I’m too baked, so that’s saying a lot. 

At the risk of sounding gimmicky, this mighty little bottle is downright revolutionary on an anecdotal level. I’ll definitely be keeping a couple of these around the house and in my purse for those inevitable consumption miscalculations and the subsequent regret that follows. To put it bluntly: I’m a HIBEGONE believer. 


Words of Advice

The warning label in the bottle very clearly states that the product may cause you to fail a drug test, so buyer beware—although if you’re using HIBEGONE because you’re too high that ship has kinda sailed, hasn’t it? As far as usage instructions go, it’s fairly straightforward, however, you must drink the entire bottle for maximum efficacy. On the flip side, do not exceed one bottle per day.

I’d wager you could drink half the bottle and stay half-stoned, if that’s what you’re into, but that’s an experiment and conversation for another day. For now, I’ll relish the fact I can become unstoned if I so choose, a wildly novel and reassuring notion for this pothead of almost twenty years.

The post Take the Edge Off With HIBEGONE appeared first on High Times.

Minnesota Breweries See Benefits From State’s Cannabis Law

A new cannabis law in Minnesota has the state’s craft brewers buzzing with excitement.

Local news station KARE reports that industry leaders “actually sought more regulations of THC-infused beverages as part of the adult-use cannabis bill, and came away very happy with the legislation Gov. Walz signed into law.”

According to the station, the new law “sets firm ground rules around who can make and sell low-dose hemp-derived THC drinks,” while also expanding “the market for those beverages because the same bill allows liquor stores to sell them for the first time.”

“It’s not every day you approach legislators and say, ‘Can we get more taxes? Can we get more regulations?’ but at the end of the day, our members wanted to make sure we were doing this in a legitimate and solidified way,” Bob Galligan of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild told KARE.

“Not quite everyone realizes just how revolutionary the actual low-dose, hemp-derived market is that we have in Minnesota.”

That market sprung up last year, after a new law took effect in Minnesota that allowed food and beverages to be infused with up to 0.3% THC.

The measure surprised a number of state lawmakers, particularly Republicans, who were unaware that they had effectively legalized marijuana in the state. 

A year later, Minnesota legislators went even further, becoming the 23rd state to legalize recreational cannabis after Walz signed a bill into law in May.

“We’ve known for too long that prohibiting the use of cannabis hasn’t worked. By legalizing adult-use cannabis, we’re expanding our economy, creating jobs, and regulating the industry to keep Minnesotans safe,” Walz said at a signing ceremony. “Legalizing adult-use cannabis and expunging or resentencing cannabis convictions will strengthen communities. This is the right move for Minnesota.”

Minnesota Lieutenant Gov. Peggy Flanagan added: “Legalizing adult-use cannabis is about keeping our communities safe, advancing justice for Minnesotans, and investing in a strong economic future. Prohibiting the use of cannabis hasn’t worked and has disproportionately harmed communities of color across the state. By expunging nonviolent cannabis convictions, we are removing the barriers that prevent thousands of Minnesotans from fully returning to work, to their communities, and to their lives. This is how we make safer communities.”

As with most other legalization laws, Minnesota’s new measure allows adults aged 21 and older to possess and use cannabis, establishes a regulatory framework to set up a legal retail pot market, and creates a path for previous marijuana-related convictions to be expunged. 

According to KARE, the new law imposes a 10% state tax on hemp-derived beverages, and distinguishes “the difference between hemp-derived products and those made from marijuana.”

“It recognized hemp as a federally legal product. We as brewers would not be able to sell a marijuana product. That would be federally illegal,” Dan Justesen, who owns and operates Utepils Brewing in Minneapolis, told the station. “The bill recognized what we were doing uniquely in Minnesota and kept it alive, allowing a lot of very small breweries like us to have a foot in the door and stay in the door.”

Justesen continued: “We saw the consumers liked it, wanted it and were buying, and so we looked at the reality we had coming out of COVID and dollars in means we stay open,” Justesen explained. “The legal serving size in Minnesota is 5 milligrams, so again, that’s us being a little bit conservative with how it started. The majority of Minnesotans, this was going to be a very new experience for them, or one they may not have had for a few decades. So, we thought giving them something that’s just gonna make them feel happy and not out of it was the way for us to go.”

The post Minnesota Breweries See Benefits From State’s Cannabis Law appeared first on High Times.

Mama Sailene Promotes Health

California cannabis patient Sailene Ossman’s journey with the plant came after a horrific car accident when she was just 19 years old. Her injuries included a spinal fracture at the C2 vertebra, a fractured sternum, five broken ribs, a compound fracture of her right leg—nearly resulting in the amputation of her foot—as well as chronic pain, arthritis, and neck degeneration.

“It took months to learn to walk again, with my dad dubbing me his ‘walking miracle baby,’” she told High Times. “I had a tracheotomy and was in traction on my back in the ICU when a respiratory therapist compared cannabis to other medications as a bronchodilator or a productive cough that would loosen the phlegm, preventing my lungs from filling up and causing pneumonia. That’s when I realized she was telling me that cannabis was medicine.”

Once she returned home from the hospital, she dove headfirst into learning more about cannabis remedies, which continue to quell her pain to this day. Since then, her journey with cannabis has led to careers she never dreamt of having.

The Queen of Abbot Kinney Boulevard

The one-mile stretch hosting some of the hippest shops in Los Angeles makes up Abbot Kinney Boulevard in the eclectic town of Venice Beach, California. This is where Ossman began her career as owner of Abbott’s Habit, a community hub where she gained the title “The Queen of Venice” in the mid-1990s.

She had a secret life, however, establishing the first cannabis delivery service with no name in the beach town and branching out to found the Privee Social Club, which hosted infused gatherings and dinners around the country, including a soiree for P Diddy. The web series Smoke in the Kitchen with Mama Sailene found her cooking side by side with Snoop Dogg for his website, MERRY JANE. Merry Jane dubbed her “Mama Sailene” when they produced her video series with the tagline, “Mama Sailene, a mother to none, mama to all.” Ossman then went on to found the Glowing Goddess Getaways, a traveling cannabis camp-out for women.

Rolling Stone wrote that Ossman was “the goddess earth mother you always wished you had… Mama Sailene, the nurturing and cheery feminist cannabis guru of Southern California, really specializes in making sure everyone else is having a wonderful time—and always has enough weed.” 

In 2020, Ossman published the book CBD Cocktails encouraging readers to “take the edge off with over 100 relaxing recipes.”

The book is unique in that each recipe incorporates various CBD (cannabidiol) tinctures made by different companies, available nationally either in dispensaries or by mail order. The idea is a novel one. How many times have you stood looking at the sea of CBD tinctures at a dispensary and wondered what else you could do with them besides simple dosing?

Courtesy Cider Mill Press

Cali Sober

Ossman is an admitted California girl through and through. Since she doesn’t consume alcohol, she was only too eager to incorporate cannabis mocktails into her recreational and medicinal dosing regimen. One section of her book is devoted to mocktails. The trend of using cannabis, but not alcohol, has been called “Cali sober,” and Ossman has included beneficial and tasty recipes for those who prefer this lifestyle.

“As the plant loses its historical [negative] stigma, cannabis and CBD products have begun to flood the market, making the healthful benefits derived from CBD accessible to all, whether marijuana has been legalized where you live or not,” Ossman wrote in her book. “If it hasn’t, it soon will be, as everyone has begun to learn of the incredible health benefits derived from this miracle plant.”

In the book’s introduction, Ossman also offers a brief overview of the history of the plant and its origins dating back to ancient times in countries we know today as China, Tibet, and India. She expounds on the plant’s use as medicine and its place in shamanistic rituals. While the book is all about CBD, she also highlights the medicinal benefits of cannabinoids working in synergy.

“Cannabinoid receptors in the body need higher levels of THC to be activated than those present in CBD products alone,” Ossman wrote. “This is why users find that the products containing only CBD are less effective, and why products using the entire plant, THC and all, work best, especially when it comes to pain management.”

Today, Ossman is the founder and owner of the Brewja Elixir in Joshua Tree, California, where she makes her home in the high desert. In her shop, you’ll find mocktails and elixirs made with a variety of CBD products, herbs, plants, and fruits, including a myriad of medicinal mushrooms.

The cannabis plant has forever changed Ossman’s life.

“The benefits from plants, and the healing I’ve witnessed for myself and others from CBD and cannabis in general, are too numerous to detail,” she said. “This experience in witnessing the healing caused me to step up to the plate for this female plant, and there’s no turning back. Cannabis has been my life, all of my adult life now, for a good reason. She’s added so much to my life, and I’m honored to work for her.”

Courtesy Sailene Ossman

Recipe: Martini

This is the ultimate form of sophistication in a glass. If you like a simple drink, reach for a simple CBD add on like a neutral tincture.


4 parts gin

1 part dry vermouth 

1 lemon twist

Neutral CBD tincture, to taste

Glassware: cocktail glass 

Place the gin and vermouth in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously, strain the mixture into a cocktail glass, and garnish with the lemon twist and the tincture.

Excepted from CBD Cocktails by Sailene Ossman

This article was originally published in the October 2022 issue of High Times Magazine.

The post Mama Sailene Promotes Health appeared first on High Times.