With over half of the country considering or approving legalization of marijuana in some form, alcohol firms as well as restaurateurs are keeping a wary eye on this growing competitor.
Marijuana Business Daily conducted an interview with Torsten Kuenzlen, the once Coca-Cola Co. and Molson Coors executive, who has recently become the CEO of Canadian-based Sundial—a cannabis producer looking to become an international superstar in the burgeoning industry. This once alcohol company executive believes that the profit gleamed from cannabis enterprises will be a strong competitor with equal standing to the alcohol industry in three to five years. Surprisingly, he also believes that almost all alcohol companies are or will be looking at the cannabis space.
Constellation Brands, international producer of some of the world’s most iconic beer, wine and spirits brands, invested almost $200 million in Canopy Growth, the world’s largest medical cannabis company that is also looking at innovative product development. Constellation, who’s brands include Corona, Robert Mondavi, Wild Horse Winery and Clos du Bois, now owns almost 10 percent of this mega-marijuana company with options to raise its stake to almost 20 percent. This marks the first time that a big-time producer of alcohol entered the cannabis industry.
CEO of Constellation Brands, Rob Sands, believes “There are going to be alcoholic beverages that will also contain cannabis.”
So, what does this mean to the restaurant industry?
It depends on the restaurant. Many are mindful of their guests who frown on the growing legality of this plant and announce federal marijuana laws as cause to stay clear of this industry. Under federal law, marijuana is considered a Schedule I substance that is illegal to use, possess, cultivate or distribute.
While the previous administration discouraged federal prosecution for recreational or medicinal use in states that permitted it, the Trump administration has freed prosecutors to more aggressively enforce federal laws despite state regulations. For possession, first offense is a misdemeanor that can carry up to a year of incarceration and a $1,000 fine.
Despite the at-odds stance between some states and the federal government, some restaurants are catering to their customers that partake in marijuana. One such company is California-based Jack in the Box who recently joined forces with Merry Jane, a media company affiliated with rapper and marijuana activist Snoop Dog, in order to offer a limited-edition MERRY Munchie Meal.
Merry Jane’s website promoted it by sharing that “The new MERRY Munchie Meal will be infused with the most craveable and snackable products that Jack in the Box has to offer…” This included curly fries, onion rings, tacos, mini churros, crispy chicken wings and a drink. Even the price, at $4.20, reflected the market—a thumb’s up to the marijuana culture that is aware that “420 friendly” means that you partake. And did we say limited-edition? If you blinked, you missed it. It was available in only three restaurants in Long Beach, California from January 18 to January 25.
On the other side of the fence is McDonald’s who did not agree with one of their franchisee’s actions in Raton, New Mexico who put up a billboard with a tongue-in-cheek reference to marijuana. The sign held a picture of an egg-and-chili stuffed burrito and read, “Usually, when you roll something this good, it’s illegal!” The billboard joke went viral before McDonald’s deemed the board unworthy of their franchise.
For now, due to the uncertainty in regulations, the trend in marijuana-infused products seems to be the predominant player in this industry. In the future, marijuana lounges and restaurants catering to cannabis cuisine may be the norm instead of the rare exception.