As the medical and recreational cannabis industries continue to grow, new trends and products seem to pop up all the time. One that has been gaining steam is cannabis-infused alcohol. Companies are making vodka with hemp, brewing beer with cannabis and infusing marijuana into wine. But is mixing cannabis and alcohol safe? How do the two substances interact together in the body? Is there any way to dose marijuana accurately when it’s mixed with alcohol?
Before you start experimenting with alcohol and cannabis, consider how these two substances interact in your body when consumed simultaneously—the possible side effects may not be worth it.
The truth is there simply isn’t a lot of scientific data on this yet. Most research related to mixing marijuana and alcohol explores what happens when you smoke marijuana after already imbibing alcohol, not what happens when you infuse alcohol with cannabis. While not exactly the same scenario, these studies do give us some clues about how cannabis and alcohol interact in the body together.
A 2015 study by the American Association for Clinical Chemistry looked at the effects cannabis and alcohol could have on each other when consumed one after the other. Researchers observed 19 adults, giving some low doses of alcohol and others a placebo. After 10 minutes, some were given a high dose of vaporized cannabis, while others received a low dose of vaporized cannabis; the control group received a placebo.
Researchers found that those who consumed alcohol before consuming cannabis experienced a much higher level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their bloodstream than those who hadn’t consumed alcohol first, regardless of the amount of alcohol or cannabis. The researchers concluded, “Any dose of alcohol combined with cannabis significantly increases levels of THC in blood.”
So what side effects could come from cannabis-infused alcohol? Both cannabis and alcohol are central nervous system depressants; when consumed, they can both separately cause sedation. Ingesting too much of both at the same time could result in serious grogginess, memory lapses, paranoia and nausea.
RELATED: MIXING MARIJUANA & ALCOHOL
What we do know for sure is that when it comes to dosing, it’s difficult to get it right with cannabis-infused alcohol. That’s because alcohol works as an extremely effective solvent, used to extract terpenes and cannabinoids from the cannabis plant. So while throwing some cannabis flower into a bottle of vodka may seem relatively harmless, it can end up being highly concentrated and more potent than you may expect.
If you’re going to experiment with cannabis-infused alcohol or alcoholic beverages, it’s wise to do so in the comfort of your own home. As always, start slow and keep in mind that dosing marijuana accurately when alcohol is in the mix can be quite difficult.
If you’re infusing the alcohol yourself, add less cannabis than you think, as the final product can end up stronger than expected. Also, allow your body time to process your cocktail for at least 30 minutes before thinking about going back for a second round.
Have you experimented with cannabis-infused alcohol or cocktails? If so, let us know about your experience in the comments.
Photo credit: Jez Timms
If you’re new to cannabis and want to learn more, take a look at our Cannabis 101 post. HelloMD can help you get your medical marijuana recommendation; it's easy, private and 100% online.