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  • THC Beverages & Live Events: Milonga at Miami Music Week, Health and Safety Considerations, and Pamos’ Pending Partnership with the Florida Panthers

THC Beverages & Live Events: Milonga at Miami Music Week, Health and Safety Considerations, and Pamos’ Pending Partnership with the Florida Panthers

An attendee of Miami Music Week holding a Milonga Yerba Mate Tea can.

Milonga’s Shining Moment

Two weeks ago Milonga Yerba Mate made beverage history as the first THC drink served at Miami Music Week.

This past week, I caught up with the Founder of Milonga Yerba Mate, Shadi Atassi, to talk about his experience.

While many drinks on the market use seltzer as their beverage base to infuse with THC, Atassi took a different approach and chose to build his brand with yerba mate tea.  Yerba mate is a naturally brewed herbal tea that is incredibly popular in South America. It contains caffeine, L-theanine, and L-bromine and has a number of known health benefits.

Atassi described his product as a potential vodka-Red Bull equivalent in the THC space, as it allows consumers to let loose but also maintain energy due to the caffeine.  “The main caveat for other brands is that people can often think that weed relaxes you or gets you on the couch”, whereas Atassi’s caffeinated yerba mate tea allows people to feel more energized.

Atassi and his brand had quite a presence at Miami Music Week, as they were offered at over 40 bars throughout Factory Town (a music venue owned by Club Space) and other parties that were held during the week. The festival at Factory Town had a total attendance of 75,000 people.  Milonga seemed to find product-market fit, and Atassi said they sold out of their 3000-unit supply in 5 days.

The Milonga Yerba Mate Tea booth at Miami Music Week.

Atassi said there was a mix of both current cannabis consumers and people who had never even conceived of such a product that approached the booth. “A lot of people came up and said ‘This is exactly what I need, alcohol makes me tired.’” On the other side of things, he said “so many people didn’t know it was a thing.”

I asked him about the challenge of consumer education and dosing. Atassi explained that the normal version of Milonga that is sold online is typically 10mg of THC, but for Miami Music Week, they sold a 5mg version instead. He said, “I would rather people have 2 cans and feel good, than 1 can and it be too much.” For any newcomers who were unsure about how the drink might make them feel, Atassi had a poetic line: “I tell them that 5mg is like a little kiss on the cheek; light and euphoric.”

It isn’t surprising that a product like this would do so well at a music festival packed with Gen Z’ers, as many media outlets have been reporting the decline of their alcohol use. “Alcohol consumption has never been lower among Gen Z” said Atassi. Atassi is 27, his younger brother is 18, and he says that both of them do not drink much and lean much more towards cannabis use. “People at this event are partying until 7 AM, alcohol is not compatible with the other substances they are taking. It seems that a lot of these people are alcohol sober.”

Two attendees raising their Milonga cans to the sky.

THC Beverages: A Potential Problem Solver for Live Events

Before I ever interviewed Atassi, I already had thoughts brewing about how cannabis beverages could change live events as we know them. Let’s talk about some of the health and safety issues that arise with high alcohol consumption at live events.

Alcohol and Aggression

Alcohol is often associated with violence and disorder at live events like concerts, festivals, and sports games, but I wanted to know if there was any research that would back this up.

A study in 2016 directly compared subjective aggression within a pool of participants before and after they were intoxicated with either alcohol or cannabis. Groups were given single doses of alcohol and placebos, and single doses of cannabis and placebos. They used the point-subtraction aggression paradigm (PSAP), which is a validated behavioral measure of aggression in response to provocation.

The study concluded that alcohol intoxication increased subjective aggression, while cannabis decreased subjective aggression following aggression exposure. Generally, I think people associate cannabis culture and consumption with more laid-back behavior, and it turns out that science might affirm this!

While there aren’t any studies about a live event with predominantly cannabis users (hopefully someday), there are many about alcohol use and its effects on safety, crime, and disorder. The results are about what you would expect.

One study investigated intoxication levels, drinking habits, and alcohol policies at a large music festival in Sweden. They collected data on BAC and qualitative information about alcohol use by interviewing attendees. Using their collected data and data from other related studies, they concluded that high levels of alcohol among visitors at music festivals are associated with violence, injuries, drunk driving, sexual risk-taking, and sexual assaults.

Another study conducted in 2014 found a positive relationship between alcohol presence and crimes at American college football games.

Alcohol-fueled violence has long plagued large athletic and music events. But what if there was a different option? 

While smoking cannabis is understandably banned at most live events, what if attendees could enjoy the same effects without the smoke?  

I think THC beverages could be a perfect opportunity to diversify options for live eventgoers, and potentially even reduce the amount of aggression-sparked instances like violence and crime.  People could still get their fill by consuming a social lubricant that allows them to loosen up and lock in on the spectacle in front of them, but could potentially avoid the negative after-effects as well as the consequences they might suffer from situations gone bad involving boozed-up fans.

There are benefits to the way THC affects the body versus alcohol that fall outside of aggression too.

Alcohol Fatality and Toxicity

Overconsumption of alcohol can be fatal, while there is essentially no evidence of a fatal occurrence of cannabis consumption. A fatal dose of THC is estimated to be between 15-70 grams, which means you would have to smoke between 238 - 1113 joints in a day to overdose on cannabis.  If we translated that to beverages, that would mean consuming thousands of low-dose THC beverages before you would even be remotely near a fatal dose.  While I believe that a responsible approach to consumption should be taken with any substance, this essentially means that cannabis is much safer than alcohol for human consumption.

A study published in 2015 confirmed this and found that the mortality risk associated with cannabis was approximately 114 times less than that of alcohol.  The CDC attributes more than 30,000 deaths annually to the health effects of alcohol. For deaths related to the health effects of cannabis, they don’t even have a category.

Comparing Alcohol and Cannabis’s Effects on the Human Body

I talked to Scott Riefler, Chief Science Officer at Sorse Technology, and Daniel Sondheim, a Research Analyst at Sorse Technology, to discuss the health impacts of cannabis and alcohol on the body.

“Cannabis does not attack the body in the same that alcohol does” said Riefler. He mentioned that some groups within the cannabis industry are trying to stop the use of the word “intoxicating,” because while alcohol is quite literally toxic to the human body, cannabis is not.

Two important areas that we discussed when it came to live events and the use of cannabis vs alcohol were motor skills impairment and dehydration.

“Diuretics like alcohol or caffeine push water out of your body” said Riefler. Rieflerand Sondheim confirmed many of my initial research findings, that alcohol is a diuretic, while cannabis is not. Cannabis may have a minor effect on hydration through indirect impacts on your brain hormones, but it is still not typically classified as a true “diuretic”, and even if it were to be, it is likely much less of one compared to alcohol.

Why the focus on dehydration?

A big thing that happens at concerts and sports games –especially with events out in the sun– is dehydration due to high alcohol consumption and sun exposure. Because of alcohol’s diuretic properties, it causes your body to excrete water and salt, which are both vital to human hydration levels. This can lead to stumbling or even passed-out attendees.

The point I’m making is, that if THC beverage options were just as common as alcohol was at live events, maybe we would see fewer of these instances.

Now on to motor skills impact.

“After consuming alcohol you have a big disadvantage to operating heavy machinery like a car, and many important brain functions like reflex times are impacted,” said Riefler. While cannabis absolutely impacts your motor skills and cognitive performance too, there is evidence that might suggest it does to a lesser degree.

A study found that cannabis increases the odds of being in a car accident by 83%, while the odds of being in a car accident under the influence of alcohol increase to more than 2,200%. Just to be crystal clear: I am not advocating that it is safe to drive high. This is not safe and is illegal.

But, if we extrapolate these findings to real situations at live events like crowd control, fire/medical emergencies, or other instances where the motor skills of attendees can mean the difference between life and death, I think we could hypothesize that maybe a giant group of high concert-goers or sports fans could potentially be safer than a group of drunk ones.

Pamos’ NHL Partnership

So if THC beverages have already been served at Miami Music Week, and there is decent evidence to suggest it could be a safer way for live event attendees to be inebriated, why aren’t other venues considering this?

Well, it's happening, but slowly.

THC-infused mocktail brand Pamos is pushing for a breakthrough by attempting to be the first THC beverage sold at a major league American sports game by partnering up with the Florida Panthers, the sunshine state’s sole NHL team.

Funny enough, insurance is the thing holding it up from proceeding, as Paulo Sobral wrote in his Drink Cannabis newsletter “The activation is currently stalled until the company finds the proper insurance coverage to indemnify the venue. This coverage is common in alcohol, which has a documented higher risk of inebriation past control than cannabis.”

I’m sure the irony of this is recognized given what I just discussed earlier in terms of the health and safety impacts of cannabis compared to alcohol.

I am hoping for Pamos’ sake – and for that of the broader THC beverage industry – that this goes through as it would be a landmark event and yet another confirmation, that whether you like it or not, THC beverages are coming to the masses.