The world’s largest drinks company is in talks with major Canadian marijuana producer Aurora Cannabis, but stressed that it was interested in the properties of cannabis that treat pain but do not get users high.
The talks come as Canada prepares to legalise cannabis for recreational use, after many years of permitting it for medicinal purposes.
Coca-Cola said it was monitoring the industry and was interested in developing new drinks infused with CBD or cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive ingredient found in cannabis plants which alleviates pain.
It said: “Along with many others in the beverage industry, we are closely watching the growth of non-psychoactive CBD as an ingredient in functional wellness beverages around the world. The space is evolving quickly.”
Many cannabis advocates argue that it is is capable of relieving conditions including arthritis and diabetes. The legal low-concentrate CBD oil is said to be beneficial for promoting sleep, boosting appetite and reducing stress, depression and anxiety.
In Los Angeles, CBD is among the latest wellness fads. It is being added to cocktails and an upmarket juice bar will add a few drops of CBD-infused olive oil to a beverage for $3.50 (£2.66).
Coca-Cola insisted “no decisions have been made at this time” and said it would not comment on further speculation. It did not confirm or deny the link with Aurora Cannabis, which was first reported by Canadian broadcaster BNN Bloomberg.
However, its interest in the marijuana sector comes as the fizzy soft drinks that made its name are in decline. Last month, Coca-Cola announced that it was buying the Costa Coffee chain in a near-£4bn deal that underlined the growing appeal of the global coffee market.
Canada is an obvious major market for a new wave of commercially produced drinks, given that recreational cannabis use is set to be legalised on 17 October. At the beginning of August, it was announced that Canadian brewer Molson Coors had struck a deal with The Hydropothecary Corporation, a Canadian cannabis producer, to launch a new standalone business which aims to develop “non-alcoholic, cannabis-infused beverages for the Canadian market following legalisation”.
Diageo, the maker of Guinness beer, is holding discussions with at least three Canadian cannabis producers about a possible deal, according to BNN Bloomberg. Heineken NV’s Lagunitas craft-brewing label has even launched a brand specialising in non-alcoholic drinks infused with THC, marijuana’s active ingredient. However Coca-Cola is the first major non-alcoholic drinks manufacturer to consider such a move.
It is not clear whether Coca-Cola’s plans will eventually extend to the UK, but the revelation was a surprise to UK-based executives. Some forms of cannabis oil are already available to buy for medical purposes in British pharmacies. The legal low-concentrate CBD oil is said to be beneficial for treating a number of complaints as well as promoting sleep, boosting appetite and reducing stress, depression and anxiety.
A recent research study from scientists at King’s College, London, found that a single dose of cannabidiol may help people with psychotic disorders by dampening down abnormal brain activity. A single dose reduced unusual patterns of neural behaviour linked to hallucinations, delusions and other symptoms of psychosis, researchers found after examining brain scans.