Ever since Minnesota’s accidental (or secretly intentional) legalization of hemp-derived cannabis seltzers and edibles on July 1, 2022, the state has had an unconventional ride through compliance and sale of such products. While this seems to be on a path for full, proper legalization with the current legislature this year the House just voted to move it forward, it’s still in disarray.
There was a lot of confusion on how things were supposed to proceed, and a year later, there still is, but what did happen was an extraordinary show of force by many players in an entirely new space for the state that opened floodgates for a rather innovative 12 months.
Without rigid direction on regulation, you can now find cannabis gummies and seltzers in a lot of places that would be absolutely prohibited in other states who have similarly legalized it – grocery stores, breweries, liquor stores, and even coffee shops. The entire experience is so jarring and now nearly normalized, if you were an out of state visitor, it’s like you walked into a fairy tale land of ‘anything goes’ for selling a schedule 1 drug.
In short, you should visit.
But what I really want to talk about is the proliferation of an expansive industry led by Minnesota breweries for the production and proliferation of cannabis seltzers in the state. Since laws have been loosened in a way that allows both cannabis products and alcoholic beverages to co-exist in the same setting here, it paved an immediate path for THC beverages to be made under the same roof. And coming out of the pandemic lockdowns, this was a godsend for breweries who were looking for various ways to pivot (I still love a good can of hop water, and now there’s even more variety to choose from).
Joshua M. Bernstein over at SevenFiftyDaily summarizes the output of the movement nicely, highlighting one of many MN breweries competing for sales:
With the ability to produce big and small batch sizes, a hyper-focus on precise measurements, and the competency to create everything from fruited hard seltzers to pilsner and pastry stouts, breweries are “uniquely positioned for this,” says John Donnelly, the head of sales and a cofounder of Modist. In August, the brewery began making and selling 16-ounce cans of fruit-infused TINT (an acronym for Thanks, I Needed That) seltzers in mango-passionfruit and blackberry-lime. Each can includes three milligrams of THC, a dose that’s almost like a “pilsner equivalent,” says Donnelly.
Amidst the energy in this space, one brewery in particular has made significant business strides – Fair State Cooperative. Founded in 2014, Fair State was the first cooperatively owned brewery in the state (based out of Minneapolis). It has demonstrated a community-driven approach to everything they do, with over 2,000 members who “have helped design beer recipes, pick fresh berries for fruited sours, volunteer countless hours through the Cooperates program, and form meaningful relationships with each other and staff.”
As the cannabis beverage market heated up last year, Fair State was not only set to release what I’d argue is the best line of THC seltzers on the market, but also an entire business model for the state (and region). In mid-January, they launched the first cannabis fulfillment and co-packaging company designed specifically for hemp-derived beverages, addressing various operational needs like co-manufacturing, warehousing, sales, distribution, events, and education. They named this after their first line of cannabis drinks – Chill State Collective, and they’ve already lined up five partners to run operations through their new St. Paul location, including Duluth’s heavyweight Bent Paddle Brewing.
Paving a successful course through the shaky legal environment right now was a bold move, and with a likely full legalization of marijuana to come by the end of this week, Chill State Collective took a bold step in setting strong infrastructure to solidly plant itself for business growth moving forward. It’s exciting to see this entirely new commerce vehicle take off quickly, successfully, and with such flair over the course of just a few months. They’ve been slowly ramping up awareness for their initiative, and of course merchandizing their flagship product as a means of brand building and community engagement.
And… you’re probably wondering how is their flagship product? The original, grapefruit cush release is excellent. By far my favorite seltzer, it carries a crispy carbonation with an absolutely dank flavor profile. Featuring 5mg THC and 25mg CBD, there’s something about it that hits all the right notes and truly exemplifies its intentional description of ‘chill’. They’ve also got an equally charming Pineapple Express variant, but I’ll be sticking with the original. And don’t forget to pair it with their trio of NA hop waters (I lean Mosaic hops)