Ever since the Farm Bill legalized the production of hemp and removed it from the federal list of controlled substances in 2018, hemp-based ingestibles—from gummies to queso—have flooded the marketplace. 

And now, as folks start to drift slightly away from alcohol and toward a more “California sober” lifestyle, hemp drinks have entered the chat. A handful of Texas brands are concocting beverages that include the Cannabis sativa plant’s by-products, including hempseeds, cannabidiol (CBD), and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). 

Cannabis sativa is often described as the mother of two related plants: hemp and marijuana. Hemp has traditionally been used to make rope, paper, and clothing, along with more recent inventions like biofuel, biodegradable plastics, and concrete. If hemp is the resourceful older child, marijuana is its peckish, puffy-eyed sibling. Both plants contain CBD and THC (called cannabinoids), though the concentration of THC is higher in marijuana, and CBD concentrations are typically higher in hemp. 

Although recreational marijuana use is currently illegal in Texas, the Farm Bill’s terminology makes a certain small amount of THC legal. “THC drinks are legal because they are heavy, and can possess an effective dose of THC well below the 0.3 percent by weight limit set by law,” explains Aaron Owens, founding board member of the Texas Hemp Coalition, who released his own hemp drink, Tejas Tonic, in February.

The Farm Bill is regularly updated every five years, which means hemp production laws may change this year, but Owens believes the latest update will likely regulate synthetics like delta-8. He feels confident that “we’re at the beginning of all that’s to happen in Texas with cannabis,” he says. 

As attitudes toward hemp and marijuana change (a recent survey from the University of Houston notes that two-thirds of Texans approve of legalizing recreational marijuana), both plants are becoming more mainstream. 

Benjamin Meggs, the CEO of Houston-based Bayou City Hemp Company, which sells a wide range of products, describes his target audience as the “canna-curious.” He noted that “in Texas, people like to drink—they like to be holding something in their hand,” so he released a CBD-infused ranch water for the company’s brand Mixer Elixir last year. His company has since developed a couple more hemp-based drink brands with different names.

Sales indicate the thirst for hemp is growing. The CBD drinks market is estimated to earn $166.9 million this year, and psychoactive cannabinoid drinks (ones with THC) will be worth $66 million this year, according to cannabis research firm Brightfield Group.

Where there’s money to be made, you can almost guarantee there are some entrepreneurial Texans in the mix (like with canned ranch waters, for example). These six Texas companies are bottling up liquid relaxation, sans the hangover. Most CBD drinks won’t get you high or cause you to fail a drug test, but those with psychoactive delta-9 and delta-8 most likely will, so imbibe with caution.

8th Wonder Brewery + Distillery + Cannabis

When 8th Wonder Brewery & Distillery, in Houston, first teamed up with Bayou City Hemp Company in 2021, the result was CBD and THC herbal seltzers in the brewery’s Wonder Water line. The drinks quickly became the top-selling to-go products at 8th Wonder. They’re available on draft as well in the East Downtown taproom. Cofounder Ryan Soroka says bartenders are trained not to overserve, just as with alcohol, and to explain to customers the drinks will cause them to fail a drug test. 

“But so many people know about this,” Soroka says. “[Hemp] has been a counterculture thing for a long time, and we’re just trying to shine a light and bring it out of the shadows.”

In 2022, Soroka and his team took it a step further and launched 8th Wonder Cannabis, a dispensary with a consumption lounge at the brewery. Soon the dispensary arm will launch its first drink, called Lil Bit, which will come in berry, cherry limeade, salted watermelon, and tropical mango flavors.

Bayou City Hemp Company

After the Mixer Elixir ranch water in 2022, Bayou City Hemp released another canned drink last month, a berry-flavored THC seltzer for its Third Coast Blends brand called Beach Break

This month it launched a different beverage, Howdy, a low-dose, hemp-derived THC seltzer with 8th Wonder Brewery & Distillery. Flavors include takes on Texas-favorite cocktails like the michelada, the ranch water, and the paloma. 

Crisp & Crude

Launched from Austin in 2021, Crisp & Crude is a line of nonalcoholic botanical and hemp-extract cocktails. The drinks contain zero THC, for those seeking a sober experience, but they do boast mood-lifting botanicals like dandelion extract, juniper oil, and Persian lime oil. 

Founder Talia Bennick created the drinks as a substitute for alcohol to help avoid migraines. When party guests started requesting her drinks in between other boozy cocktails, she realized they had business potential. 

Hemp seeds.
Hemp seeds. David “Odiwams” Wright
Wendell Robbins and Ben Williams of Highway Vodka.
Wendell Robbins and Ben Williams of Highway Vodka. David “Odiwams” Wright

Highway Vodka

Hemp is also being used to create alcoholic beverages. Highway Vodka, Texas’s first Black-owned distillery, is using hempseed in its mash to create a vodka with fewer adverse congeners, ingredients linked to hangovers.

Founded by Wendell Robbins and Ben Williams (the big brother of Houston chef Chris Williams), Highway Vodka distills and ferments its liquor with Texas corn and water from an on-site artesian aquifer, in addition to hempseed. The result is a vodka with less burn. 

Robbins and Williams are planning to open their Houston distillery for tours this fall. They’re also teasing a hemp-based whiskey with a limited release this winter.

Powered by Plants

After creating delta-8-infused protein bites and a Nutella-esque CBD chocolate spread for his San Antonio company Powered by Plants, Brian Conaway decided to enter the drinks space. The canned market already appeared too saturated, so in January he released a line of nonalcoholic but extremely hemp-heavy “spirits” in tequila, gin, and rum flavors.

They’re topping the Texas market, with 45 milligrams per ounce of cannabinoids derived from resin from the fresh flower as opposed to dried and cured leaves. The result is “a fantastically light and floaty buzz,” Conaway says. The products are designed to be mixed with other liquids, like in a cocktail. 

Tejas Tonic

The first product to exclusively utilize hemp grown in Texas (from farms in Luckenbach and Dripping Springs), Tejas Tonic has zero carbs, sugar, or calories. Owens describes the taste as Topo Chico with a touch of lime and cannabis, and he says he’s “tickled” to be part of a revolution making “the wonderment of cannabis” legally available to the masses in beverage form.