By ALASTAIR BLAND |Marin Independent Journal
PUBLISHED: May 5, 2021 at 5:19 a.m. | UPDATED: May 5, 2021 at 5:20 a.m.

Ethanol contains 7 calories per gram. That’s almost two times the calories of carbohydrates and nearly as many of fat. So, if you want to drink beer without the calories, sorry — it’s not going to happen. It can’t.

That may be why, as breweries strive to minimize their beers’ caloric value, cannabis beverages are taking flight. With THC-infused drinks, consumers can attain that buzz they’re after without the caloric baggage. In a sense, they’re required to, since it is illegal to combine alcohol and THC in the same product.

Cannabis-infused drinks have been on the market for several years now, but I didn’t have a taste until last week, when I was delivered a sample pack of a lime-and-basil-flavored bubbly water infused lightly with the compounds of interest from marijuana — namely, and chemically, tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol. These are better known in daily dialogues as THC and CBD.

CBD is the miracle molecule that cures all ills, or nearly so, according to high life advocates, while THC is the compound that messes with people’s heads.

The product I tasted contains both. It is on shelves now and emerged from collaboration between Sava, a local online cannabis vendor, and Cann, which makes a variety of all-natural, low-dose “social tonics,” as Cann’s website calls them.

The drink was spritzy, and the flavor combination was light and wonderful.

My drinking companion claims to have gotten almost immediately, and very mildly, stoned. I felt only a slight touch of a giddy lightness, but it was real and clear — a genuine high. It was the first time I had used cannabis in a measured way (the 8-ounce can contains 2 milligrams of THC and 4 of CBD, and just 35 calories) and now I know that a little extra might be perfect for me, and next time I may double my dose. The Lime Basil Cann Social Tonic is widely available in the Bay Area and should run about $12 for a four-pack.

Cann’s website calls social tonics “the future of drinking.” Whether brewers believe this or not, they are certainly listening to such claims. Indeed, as more states legalize marijuana — as California, Alaska, Maine and many more have done – brewers are dabbling in this sector. Lagunitas, for one, has done so. In 2017, the Marin-born, Sonoma-based beer giant made an alcoholic cannabis beer — what the brewery claims to have discovered only after the fact was illegal. For combining alcohol with THC was and remains against federal law. Currently, Lagunitas offers a drink called Hi-Fi Hops — an IPA-inspired bubbly water, sans alcohol, and infused with 5 mg of THC.

Other non-alcoholic THC “beers” include High Style Brewing’s Pale Haze, with a whopping 10 mg of THC; the same brewery’s Blood Orange Haze, with 10 mg of THC; and Flying Dog’s IPA-inspired Hop Chronic, with an unmeasured amount of THC.

Combining CBD with alcohol is allowed, and we see an example of this in Coalition Brewing Co.’s Two Flowers IPA, which contains 6% ABV, 0 THC and 10 mg of CBD.

Reports recently emerged from Canada that beer sales declined markedly when marijuana became legal — a clear sign that many beer lovers aren’t beer lovers at all; rather, they just want to have fun — minus the calories.

Alastair Bland’s Through the Hopvine runs every week in Zest. Contact him at