The First Cannabis-Infused Burger Is Coming, And It's Awfully Controversial

The First Cannabis-Infused Burger Is Coming, And It's Awfully Controversial

By: Oliver G. Alvar -

Carl's Jr. is debuting the "Rocky Mountain High: CheeseBurger Delight," the first cannabis-infused burger by a major fast-food chain, this Saturday, April 20.

April 20 is a special day for many people across the world. In cannabis culture, 420 or 4:20 is slang for using the drug, especially around 4:20 p.m., and as such, April 20 (or 4/20, of course) is a day reserved for the annual celebration of its consumption. 4/20 represents a major counterculture holiday in America.

So what a big, prominent food chain such as Carl's Jr. has in store for that very day this year is only fitting. The fast-food company just announced that, coming Saturday, they will debut the CBD-infused "Rocky Mountain High: CheeseBurger Delight" in Denver. This move, which makes Carl's Jr. the first major fast-food chain to offer a cannabis-infused product, is meant as a one-location, one-day test to see how the hamburger performs. If all goes well, Carl's Jr. is considering the possibility of making this product available on a general basis across the U.S.

carls jr first cannabis infused burger

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carls jr first cannabis infused burger

What is CBD?

CBD, or Cannabidiol, is an important component found in marijuana, but it lacks the psychotropic effects of the drug. In other words, it won’t get you high. However, CBD does appear to have much of the health benefits related to marijuana, including anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic effects. As such, CBD is praised by many as a healthy substance, marketed to have all the virtues of cannabis without any of its vices. Sounds good, right?

But things are not so simple. Though food and drinks containing CBD were introduced in the United States in 2017 and have since only grown in popularity, it’s not yet clear whether the substance is as good as advertised. Several companies that label their products as containing CBD and that promote its use have already received warning letters from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for making dubious claims about the potential health benefits of CBD. In fact, many of these claims do not stand on very solid ground, since far more research is needed by FDA standards in order to be comfortable with widespread use.

carls jr first cannabis infused burger

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The controversy

Carl's Jr.'s move follows their launch of its vegan "Beyond Meat" burger back in January, and it's looking to cement a place in history for the brand. But making a CBD-infused burger is far less straightforward than rolling out a vegan one, for the reasons mentioned above. The legal implications are complicated, and not every state will allow it. 

The use of CBD on food and drinks remains highly controversial, even in places where marijuana has been legalized for medical uses. New York, for example, intends to fine any restaurant that infuses CBD on its products, starting in October this year. The city is also demanding that restaurants dispose of all CBD-related products in July. 

carls jr first cannabis infused burger

The New York City Health Department cited safety concerns over the non-medical use of CBD in order to justify the move. The city banned restaurants, cafés, and any other establishment from adding CBD to food and drinks since January this year.

And New York is far from alone on this, as the FDA itself is asking for a ban on the substance. It's FDA policy to prohibit companies and individuals from adding medical drug-related active ingredients in everyday food and drinks. This includes CBD, as it is the main ingredient in a drug used to treat severe childhood epilepsy, called Epidiolex. Epidiolex was just approved in 2018.

carls jr first cannabis infused burger

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The Rocky Mountain High: CBD

But in spite of health-related concerns, there's no denying that CBD is getting more popular every year. Retailers and restaurants across the nation are focusing their attention on the substance, including CVS, Walgreens, By Chloe, Kickback, among others, all of which have signed deals to sell CBD products—from topicals to infused candies. The CBD market is already worth around $2 billion at the moment, and it's expected to rise to over $15 billion in the next six years. 

carls jr first cannabis infused burgerCarl’s Jr. Rocky Mountain High: CheeseBurger Delight. Source: Carl's Jr.

So, it's no wonder Carl's Jr. wants a piece of that multi-billion dollar cake. And as they debut the controversial burger this Saturday, the company will closely monitor both sales and reactions by customers and franchises alike to evaluate whether they expand the experiment to other states. 

The "Rocky Mountain High: CheeseBurger Delight" will consist of two beef patties with pickled jalapenos, jack cheese, fries, and the contentious CBD-infused "Santa Fe Sauce" on top. It will be sold this Saturday only at the Carl's Jr. locale found on 4050 Colorado Blvd., Denver, from 6 a.m. until the end of the day (subject to product availability, meaning that if the burgers sell out, you're out of luck). 

Oh, and it will cost $4.20, of course.

carls jr first cannabis infused burgerCarl’s Jr. Rocky Mountain High: CheeseBurger Delight. Source: Carl's Jr.

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