THC drinks takeoff in Minnesota with boost from 'Dry January'

A new law that legalized recreational cannabis cleared the way for liquor stores to sell low dose, hemp-derived edibles late last spring and since then, their popularity in Minnesota has only increased.

THC drinks started arriving at retailers by June last summer, and for the first time one of the drinks cracked the Top Ten bestsellers at Top Ten Liquors – an achievement usually reserved for national brands like Miller Lite and Captain Morgan’s.

A typical liquor store lull to start the year is a bit hazier in Minnesota this year though, as a new type of drink has apparently gotten around the "dry January" rules.

"The consumption during the holidays, people generally dial it back," Mike Borgerpoepping of Top Ten Liquors told FOX 9. "Not the case in this category."

"Consumers are using these products throughout dry January," said Zach Rohr, CEO of Minny Grown, the Cannon Falls-based drink and edible maker. "Call it 'damp January', 'high and dry January,’ but consumers are having fun with it, getting off the booze and using these THC cocktails."

THC beverages are soaring off the shelves at stores around the state, leaving their beer brethren green with envy.

Top Ten Liquors introduced them in June and captured curious customers.

"We have a lot of people, particularly older customers who come in and ask about something that might help them sleep, something that might help with an ache or a pain," said Borgertpoepping. "And then, of course, we have people asking, you know, just what might help me relax."

Since October, a search of Minnesota Department of Health records shows 3,200 businesses have registered with the state to sell low-potency hemp products.

Minnesota's makers had a head start, but national brands are now also allowed to sell, so even Cheech & Chong are smoking out some space at Total Wine.

"Minnesota is the hottest spot right now," Rohr said. "So you got every competitor in the country, and you know, you're fighting for that shelf space."

The smashing success has trickled down to canning operations like Five Watt Coffee's in Uptown – 70% of the drinks they produce now are cannabis concoctions, with most of that starting after May when they could move from specialty hemp shops to the same stores where people typically buy alcohol.

"By reducing the stigma, it's just become very approachable," said Borgertpoepping. "It's just much easier to shop. It doesn't have a lot of the hurdles that a dispensary will."

The next big change for the industry could come next year when the state starts licensing dispensaries.

Companies can start making marijuana-based drinks at that point, but hemp drink makers hope they'll hold steady because only their drinks will be in liquor stores, and they already have a foothold.