I'm sipping on a cocktail as I write this. It's made from vodka infused with cannabis — and it's totally legal. The government says so.
In 2014, the farm bill provided money for some states to cultivate hemp, a crop that federal drug laws had formerly outlawed because of its close association with marijuana. The farm bill distinguished hemp from marijuana by requiring a THC content of less than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis, making it legal to grow. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the mind-altering ingredient in a cannabis plant that produces a high.
Humboldt Distillery in California decided to use this newly legal crop and turn it into vodka. It's infused with Cannabis sativa, but it's perfectly legal. It won't get you stoned, but it could get you drunk — just like any vodka.
“Humboldt's Finest doesn't have the THC that you'd find in marijuana, so it's not going to get anyone in trouble with the law,” explains Abe Stevens, owner and operator of the micro-distillery. “It does, however, retain an herbal and aromatic quality reminiscent of fresh cannabis, and we've found it works very well in place of gin, giving classic cocktails a fresh new spin."
I noticed the gin quality upon first sniff and sip, and it made me smile. I immediately wanted to make a "weed and tonic" with the vodka, so I did. The cocktail was refreshing and the spirit is definitely suited to being paired with lime. It also works well in the the High Thyme created by Humboldt Distillery, pictured above. Here's how you make one:
- 1 1/2 ounces Humboldt's Finest
- 3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime
- 1/2 ounce honey syrup
- 2 hearty springs of fresh thyme
- At the bottom of a cocktail shaker, add one sprig of thyme and muddle.
- Add ice, then add lime, honey syrup and Humboldt's Finest
- Shake, and pour over ice in a double old-fashioned glass. Garnish with thyme sprig.
There's a definite novelty factor to this "weed vodka," but the benefits of hemp as an ingredient go beyond that. Its existence can help educate people that industrial hemp and marijuana are not the same thing. Hemp is a non-mind-altering, environmentally friendly, money-making crop that can be used in thousands of products, including underwear, cars and houses.
Until recently, the United States had been the only industrialized country in the world that didn't allow hemp to be grown as a crop. That began to change in 2009, when North Dakota became the first state in 50 years to allow commercial production of industrial hemp. Just five years later, the federal government put money into the farm bill for more states to grow it. As companies like Humboldt Distillery use it in their products, hemp will hopefully lose its stigma and become a crop in all 50 states.