Cannabis and Alcohol
Since legalization in Canada, I’ve been fielding more than a few questions about adding cannabis to homebrew. Although most know that hops and cannabis are closely related, being in the same family, there are some very important differences between the two. You simply cannot add cannabis buds the same way that you add hop cones in the boil and expect the same results. I also do not endorse mixing cannabis and alcohol because it is too easy to over consume. The information below is here to help you stay informed and safe.
Adding Cannabis to home brew
Before we go any further, at the time of this writing, the manufacture and sale of “edibles” still aren’t legal in Canada. That means keep your home made products away from places that legally sell alcohol!
If you're adamant on adding THC to beer; where do you start? Firstly, know that boiling changes the nature of several chemicals within both hops and cannabis. For hops, there are α-acids that become iso-α-acids through prolonged boiling in a process called isomerisation. These isomers are much more bitter than the original α-acids and also much more stable. With cannabis, THC starts as THCA and requires heat to decarboxylise, but heating though boiling instantly vaporises any chemical that might resemble THC. That means you need to somehow heat it and then add it after boiling so the THC doesn't immediately blow off. Raw flowers simply aren't going to cut it, which leaves making your own extract (hard and imprecise as far as dosing is concerned) or purchasing legal extract with a known THC quantity.
THC is not like alcohol where a percentage point one way or the other isn’t going to ruin your night. If you are planning on doing this, you need to know as much as possible about your cannabis, and thankfully legalisation has made this information much more precise. As previously stated, adding buds you've heated to your brew is a terrible idea. I suggest using an extract with a known percentage and assume 80-90% utilisation. With this, you can eliminate many variables and calculate a reasonable estimate of THC in mg/L and from there, extrapolate how much will be in a pint.
In addition, molecules matter. Inhaled, THC is in a form called δ-9-THC. It will go from your lungs to your bloodstream, deliver the (hopefully) expected result and then become inert. δ-9-THC ingested however, will pass through the intestine and liver before hitting the bloodstream. In the liver, a large portion will be metabolized into 11-hydroxy-THC. It is impossible to say how much as every liver is different. To start, effects will not be felt immediately. Under normal circumstances, it will take between 30 minute to 3 hours to metabolize the THC. However, with increased alcohol consumption, the rate of metabolism will slow down further, so be advised not to overconsume. There have been several cases where the expected effects did not materialize until the morning after. Other differences between δ-9-THC and 11-hydroxy-THC is the ability of 11-hydroxy-THC to remain active for much longer – up to 12 hours, which may make it desirable for medicinal uses, but not necessarily a fun time if you're planning on being useful the next day.
- Use extract of a known percentage
- Add it directly to the fermentor or the serving vessel
- Expect the effect to take a long time to arrive
- Expect the effects to last much longer than when inhaling