Judging by its breweries, distilleries, coffee roasters, soda makers and sports supplements, the Durango area clearly has a thing for drinks. And in the cannabis sector, that love manifests itself as Oh Hi Beverages.
The company burst onto the scene in March 2019 with a line of seltzers featuring 10 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana. It followed those up with a line of seltzers with cannabidiol, or CBD, another compound derived from cannabis but which does not have a psychoactive effect.
Now, the company is looking to expand its market with a product designed for customers who may have enjoyed its THC seltzers, but are looking for something a bit stronger.
Oh Hi’s new uncarbonated Budtender’s Reserve line ramps the THC up to 100 milligrams – about 10 times the amount in a typical edible – though it’s not necessarily meant to be consumed all at once. Each bottle contains 10 servings of 10 milligrams.
“If you drink the whole thing, you will be really, really, really high. Maybe higher than you want to be,” said John Lynch, director of operations at Oh Hi Beverages.
Oh Hi isn’t the first edible manufacturer to create weed-based drinks with high amounts of THC – a number of sodas and other beverages are available with comparable amounts of the compound. And Oh Hi wants to push into that market, he said.
“We definitely made this product for more the experienced cannabis user. But it’s also great for people who like to make mocktails or non-alcoholic beverages, as a mixer. There are people who are who aren’t looking for the carbonated or the seltzer and want something more than just 10 milligrams. Everyone’s different, so we’re trying to appeal to people with different tolerances,” he said.
A person with a high tolerance for THC would have to drink three or four of Oh Hi’s 10 milligram seltzers to achieve the same result as drinking less than half a bottle of the Budtender’s Reserve.
In December, Oh Hi launched the first two flavors of the line: Tropical Thunder and High Tea. Tropical Thunder is tropical fruit-flavored energy drink, supplementing its 100 milligrams of THC with electrolytes and 140 milligrams of caffeine. High Tea, on the other hand, tastes like iced tea with lemon and is not caffeinated. Lynch said the beverages, which are produced at Durango Organics in Grandview, should reach dispensaries that carry Oh Hi beverages by mid-February and cost about $25 at most locations.
The company plans to roll out three additional flavors in the next couple months: Grateful Grape, Orange Sunshine (with an orange cream flavor) and Sucker Punch (another energy drink, this time with a dark berry punch flavor). None of the beverages use artificial flavors or sweeteners.
Lynch said the energy drinks are made with Colorado’s athletic and outdoorsy people in mind.
“It’s a functional beverage that’s great for before you go for a hike or your workout. It’s a good go-get-stuff-done kind of beverage,” he said.
All of Oh Hi’s THC beverages are created with Ripple, a water-soluble cannabinoid powder developed by Stillwater Brands. As a result, the THC can be absorbed sublingually – in the saliva glands – rather than being processed in the stomach and absorbed though the liver like most edibles. This also means that the seltzers’ psychoactive effects can start to within 15 minutes instead of 45 minutes to an hour as is the case with typical edibles.
Oh Hi’s flagship 10 milligram THC seltzers have been well received – the pomegranate flavor won first place in the edible category of High Times’ Cannabis Cup in 2019. And the seltzers are especially popular in the more affluent parts of the state. In addition to Durango, Lynch said they sell well in places like Breckenridge, Denver, Steamboat Springs and Telluride.
He said consumers in some parts of the state shop to maximize the milligrams of THC they get for their dollar, while others simply search for high-quality products. The people who buy Oh Hi’s beverages tend to fall into the latter category.
Sales of the CBD seltzers, which because they contain no psychoactive compounds can be sold in grocery stores in most parts of the country, have been OK but not quite what the company hoped for, Lynch said. Oh Hi is one of the only manufacturers to sell CBD seltzers by the keg, and it saw a lot of on-premise consumption in bars and restaurants that used it to make CBD mocktails and the like. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, setting sales back a bit.
He said that ironically, its easier to distribute the THC seltzers throughout the state because dispensaries are actively looking for the product and forming partnerships. Conversely, CBD beverages occupy a gray area – states such as Idaho and Nebraska prohibit CBD, and its legality is unclear in South Dakota – and as a result, the industry is still finding its niche. This is one reason that the company also sells its CBD seltzers directly to customers online.