Coca-Cola to Take It Slow on Marijuana

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CEO says science and public opinion have to catch up before soda giant gets on board

Coca-Cola Co. KO +0.73% won’t use cannabis-derived ingredients in the U.S. or elsewhere until they are legal and there is a scientific consensus that they are safe for daily consumption, Chief Executive James Quincey said.

The soda giant is exploring cannabidiol, or CBD, a nonpsychoactive compound found in marijuana and hemp that treats pain but doesn’t induce a high. CBD-infused oils, lotions and other products manufactured by small companies are widely available online in the U.S., but federal law on the ingredient is murky. That could change if the 2018 Farm Bill is passed, legalizing hemp-derived CBD, Mr. Quincey said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, marijuana-laced foods and beverages are expected to become legal in Canada next year.

“I think it’s a way away before any large players in the consumer space get to it,” Mr. Quincey said. “Being legal does not make it safe… Our consumers trust us to do the right thing.”

Others are moving faster. Since last year, two big beer brewers—Constellation Brands Inc. STZ +1.24% and Molson Coors Brewing Co.—have announced development plans for cannabis-infused beverages in Canada, and Heineken’s Lagunitas brand launched a marijuana-laced, hop-flavored sparkling water in California.

Coke has been pushing to broaden its portfolio of drinks as consumers shift to healthier options like sparkling water and kombucha. CBD is seen as a potential ingredient for the fast-growing category of “wellness” drinks.

“There’s no way we’re going to put something in unless there’s a high degree of consumer acceptance,” Mr. Quincey said. “We like a broad swath of consensus science and public opinion behind things before we’re going to put them in our drinks.”

Write to Jennifer Maloney at jennifer.maloney@wsj.com

Source: https://www.wsj.com/articles/coca-cola-to-take-it-slow-on-marijuana-1540987202

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