May 25, 2018
HALIFAX—When Dooma Wendschuh told his wife he was leaving the world of video games to develop a beer brewed from cannabis, she had some reservations.
“My wife (said) ‘I married a writer and I was so excited about that, and now you’re telling me you want to become a drug dealer,’” Wendschuh said after his presentation on cannabis opportunities for brewers at the Canadian Brewing Awards and Conference in Halifax.
Dooma Wendschuh is the CEO of Province Brands of Canada, which has created a beer brewed from cannabis that get’s the drinker high instead of drunk. (SILAS BROWN / FOR STARMETRO)
“It was really hard. Making that jump was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life and the past five years have probably taken several years off my life expectancy.”
Wendschuh, who left a successful video game writing company that had worked on titles such as the Assassin’s Creed franchise, is the CEO of Province Brands of Canada which is developing a beer brewed from cannabis. The beer is brewed using waste product from cannabis growers, such as stalks and stems of the plants, and contains no alcohol.
The Ontario-based company is currently developing two different products. One is a non-alcoholic beer brewed from barley that is then infused with cannabis oil. The other is made completely from cannabis and it’s this new brewing technology that has Wendschuh the most excited.
“If we can create something that is a true alternative to alcohol, you know, that could change the world in so many ways … to make that kind of change and to create something that could be healthier and safer but still convey a lot of the benefits of psychoactives,” he said.
“Thinking back in my own life, so many of the most memorable and most important experiences of my life involved some kind of a psychoactive substance. You know I never would have gotten married if I didn’t have alcohol on the day I proposed to my wife. I would have chickened out. The champagne really helped ... I was so nervous.”
He said the end goal is to create an alternative to alcohol that will still provide a similar experience in feeling, although that will take years of research and development. The current goal is to create something that will affect the consumer and leave their system in a similar amount of time as alcohol would.
“Through alcohol you can relax, you can be more natural, you can build bonds with people that you can’t normally build but it’s like a tradeoff because every time you do that you’re sort of shortening your life expectancy,” he said. “And I would love for there to be a product which could give a lot of those benefits without so many of the harms.”
The biggest challenge to that goal is the difference in how alcohol and cannabis are metabolized. When cannabis is eaten it takes a long time to take effect and can last for several hours. Province Brand is currently experimenting with accelerants to help create a similar uptake time to alcohol.
As it currently stands, the product contains six and a half milligrams of THC and has a total phytocannabinoid content of nine milligrams. Currently THC amount is the only phytocannabinoid being regulated by the government, something that worries Wendschuh.
“There [are] 144 phytocannabinoids that can be found in a marijuana plant and some of those other ones could get you pretty rocked,” he said.
“The regulators aren’t seeing the full picture by only sort of paying attention to one of those compounds and people could take advantage and make something that only has six and a half milligrams [of THC] but actually had, you know, a whole bunch of some other non-THC compounds and maybe was really strong.”
But don’t be expecting to see the beer hitting the shelves at your local cannabis provider any time soon. Because the product is a consumable, it will not be initially covered by Bill C-45 that will legalize recreational cannabis in Canada this year. The federal government has announced that consumables will be legalized the following year, which is when Province Brands plans to launch its product.
The company obtained a license allowing them to work with cannabis and is planning to open a brewing facility in the near future to continue developing the product.
Wendschuh said that he thinks the cannabis industry could be the first step in what he calls “a more sensible approach towards drug policy.”
“If we can start with cannabis,” he said, “we might realize that there are other substances that are less harmful than alcohol that we might want to legalize as well and give people opportunities, you know, to still enjoy the many benefits of psychoactives without doing so much harm to themselves.”