Partnering with Flying Dog Brewery to create a cannabis-infused IPA was a “joint idea,” according to Green Leaf CEO Philip Goldberg. The two businesses are within walking distance of one another in Frederick, and while Flying Dog CEO Jim Caruso was touring Green Leaf, the idea began to brew.

Ralph Steadman, known for illustrating Hunter S. Thompson's work, creates label designs for Flying Dog Brewery.

Ralph Steadman, known for illustrating Hunter S. Thompson’s work, creates label designs for Flying Dog Brewery. »

The medical cannabis facility, says Caruso, “is super high-tech. They can do all kinds of things with cannabis.” But even though buds, vapes, patches and creams are legal, the idea of adding cannabinoids to nonalcoholic beer had not yet been undertaken in Maryland. It’s a regulatory challenge that appeals to Caruso, who is known locally for his libertarian views. Flying Dog famously fought Michigan’s ban on the company’s Raging Bitch IPA on first amendment grounds—and won. Supporting Maryland’s medical cannabis industry is a good fit, Caruso says. “It springs from my individual freedom-oriented belief that people should be able to enjoy what’s important to them.”

Goldberg doesn’t see the new product competing with Flying Dog’s other beverages. The effects of tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC, and alcohol, he points out, “are two extremely different experiences.”

Green Leaf hopes to begin production once the concept has been approved by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC), most likely in April 2019, Goldberg says. “The approval process is a bit of a mystery,” he admits. “We assume they’re making sure it isn’t attractive to children, and looking at packaging, warning labels and tamper resistance.”

The Flying Dog branding aligns nicely with the Green Leaf product, Goldberg points out. The brewery’s label drawings are by Welsh-born artist Ralph Steadman, whose expressive, ink-spattered illustrations appear in the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and other works by Hunter S. Thompson. The late journalist who inspired the genre “gonzo” was also known for his early support of legalizing marijuana.

Caruso says Flying Dog will brew the nonalcoholic beer, and Green Leaf will then add the cannabinoid compound and bottle it with the help of a mobile bottler.

The infused beer, Goldberg says, will be stored in refrigerators at the Green Leaf facility and sold to customers who carry a medical cannabis card. For his part, Caruso has high hopes for the collaboration.

After all, cannabis and hops, he points out, are closely related. “We know this is going to be delicious.” –Martha Thomas

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