THC Beverages Create Some Confusion for Alcohol Licensees

There are many THC beverages on the markets these days. Licensees may wonder if they can sell some of these beverages at their bar or restaurant. This memo consists of information gathered until further guidance is provided by the SLA and OCM on some of these new issues presented as the adult use market begins to open up in New York.


The New York State Liquor Authority’s (SLA) legal department has clarified that products produced using industrial hemp can be consumed and sold, even if they contain CBD or THC, provided that the beverages meet OCM guidelines for hemp products.  The retailer must hold any necessary hemp retail licenses necessary to sell such products. Conversely, THC beverages derived from adult use cannabis cannot be sold or consumed at licensed premises. While adult recreational consumption is legal in New York, the SLA takes the position that cannabis is regulated as tobacco and is not allowed to be consumed in any public restaurant or bar (or any private business or public area such as a park or municipal lands and buildings).


The SLA also has taken the position that alcohol and cannabis should not be mixed as the intoxicating effects can be more than either consumed independently. Given the SLA’s views on such mixing, it is unlikely that traditional recreational cannabis consumption will ever be permitted in a premises licensed for on-premises alcohol consumption.


While hemp derived beverages containing only CBD are permissible, on-premise retailers selling THC beverages derived from adult use cannabis, using them as cocktail mixers, or offering cannabis infused food and beverage may be subject to disciplinary action by the SLA. There will likely be enforcement efforts by the  Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) after the Governor’s announcement that the State will put a priority on enforcement of illegal cannabis sales this year to curb the underground and legacy market for unregulated and untaxed cannabis products.


If you have questions about compliance with the state liquor laws, our team can guide you.  We can assist you with best business practices to comply with the state laws and your licenses/permits. If you receive a notice of disciplinary action or an investigation from the SLA or OCM, please do not delay in calling as ignoring or delaying in responding to such actions can cause serious consequences.  Our experienced litigation team stands prepared to represent and defend you.


Tracy Jong is a Senior attorney at Evans Fox LLP with 30 years of experience focusing her practice in business law, intellectual property and licensing for alcohol and cannabis. Tracy Jong is a member of the New York Bar and is a registered attorney at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. She can be reached at [email protected].



The content has been prepared for informational purposes only; it should not be construed as legal advice, does not create or constitute an attorney-client relationship, and readers should not act upon it without seeking professional counsel.