Sign of Changing Times (and Laws): Cannabis-Curious Coca-Cola
- Tax Accounting and Finance
- The Knowledge Group
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Coca-Cola Co. is interested in trying out cannabidiol (CBD) in a new line of soft drinks. It’s the most famous, but not the first, big beverage company to consider the concept as many cold drinks lose their public appeal. The makers of Corona, Coors, and Guinness are entering the area.
Most striking of all may be Heineken’s Lagunitas craft-brewing division. The label now offers HiFiHops, a non-alcoholic drink infused with THC, the active ingredient in pot.
Coke’s possible CBD-infused drinks would offer anti-inflammatory benefits but the CBD won’t get customers high. Canada’s Aurora Cannabis Inc. has an interest in purveying infused beverages but has not confirmed any deals with Coca-Cola yet. Aurora, located in Edmonton, Alberta, is seeing its stocks soar in the run-up to Canada’s forthcoming nationwide legalization of cannabis.
Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal, gave a financial boost to California’s legalization ballot measure. Since then, multiple U.S. states have accepted cannabis, and the legal industry is now worth tens of billions. Top backers include Phyto Partners and MedMen Capital, with their connections to the lawyers and former drug regulators now shaping the cannabis field.
Cannabis-friendly commercial real estate agents now offer zoning and compliance support. And a cannabis-focused marketing firm has won financial support from Gary Vaynerchuk, whose previous investment successes include Uber, Facebook, and Twitter.
Legal Obstacles Crumbling
People of diverse political views are beginning to back cannabis. Ex-Speaker of the House John Boehner has had a spectacular change of heart on on the matter. Boehner joined the board of Acreage Holdings, a cannabis startup with a stake in rolling back pot restrictions.
In short, cannabis is coming into its own as a regulated industry. National banks will inevitably get involved. That is the “end game,” as California’s treasury office describes it.
Against this backdrop, Coco-Cola isn’t reading the financial tea leaves. It’s just responding to the writing on the wall.
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