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Cannabis-infused beer? Flying Dog is seeking approval to brew one

Hop Chronic, brewed by Flying Dog in partnership with Green Leaf Medical, could be Maryland's first THC-infused beer and is slated to be released this year.
Hop Chronic, brewed by Flying Dog in partnership with Green Leaf Medical, could be Maryland's first THC-infused beer and is slated to be released this year. (Handout / Flying Dog Brewery)

Two Frederick-based companies are seeking permission to market a cannabis-infused non-alcoholic beer in Maryland for patients approved to use medical marijuana.

Called Hop Chronic, the Indian pale ale would be a joint venture of Flying Dog Brewery and Green Leaf Medical Cannabis. The beer would serve as a delivery system for medical marijuana, which became legal for certified patients in Maryland in December 2017.

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The two companies have been working together on the project since last summer, said Jim Caruso, CEO and co-owner of Flying Dog. A non-alcoholic, cannabis-infused beer would be perfect for patients who don’t want to ingest marijuana via smoking or vaping, he said.

After marijuana became available to medically certified patients in Maryland, dispensaries and local chefs began teaming up to put on cooking classes for patients to learn how to make their own edibles. But some advocacy groups say these classes also legitimize recreational use.

“I would be one of those people,” said Caruso. “I don’t smoke, I’ve never smoked. But to enjoy a beer and experience the benefits if I were a user, that would be me.”

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If approved by state regulators, Hop Chronic would be released through medical cannabis dispensaries throughout Maryland, according to a press release from Flying Dog issued Wednesday. The beer would be available in six-packs or single-serve 12-ounce cans.

“In a way, the cannabis industry is a lot like the craft beer movement was a few decades ago,” Green Leaf CEO Philip Goldberg said in the release. “We have to educate people and change the overall perception of what cannabis is, what it could be, and how it might benefit people. Partnering with Flying Dog seemed like another great way to get more people interested in cannabis.”

Food isn't allowed under Maryland's medical marijuana program. But patients find plenty to eat and drink in the state's dispensaries. And they want more.

Under Maryland law, patients must be certified by a registered medical provider to be able to buy medical marijuana grown by licensed operators and sold at licensed dispensaries. The state banned food from its medical cannabis program, but a gray area in the law allows the dispensaries to sell tinctures, tablets, powders and drinks alongside machines customers can use to make cannabis-infused oils.

A spokesperson for the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

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Caruso said they haven’t actually brewed Hop Chronic yet, and are waiting for state approval before doing so — approval that could come as early as this summer, he said. And while he’s unaware of any similar products or how well they have succeeded, Caruso said he’s confident there would be a market for the beer.

Bethany Jane, the woman behind the "Mary Jane Chronicles" website, seeks to expand the Maryland marijuana community's social network through themed, educational events where they can connect with other patients and dispensaries.

“Phil and his brother are smart guys,” he said of Philip and Kevin L. Goldberg, the CEO and general counsel/chief compliance officer for Green Leaf. “Not having it in the market before, you never know… The market for medical cannabis is pretty big and growing.”

Baltimore Sun reporters Doug Donovan and Lillian Reed contributed to this article.

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