Minnesota's Former House Majority Leader is Now Selling Weed-Infused Drinks
Democrat Ryan Winkler joins Republican John Boehner as former politicians in the legal weed game.
Published on March 17, 2023

Being among the architects of one’s state’s cannabis legalization shouldn’t bar you from later participating in said industry, should it? Minnesota’s former House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler doesn’t think so—and the politician has announced the creation of his new THC beverage to prove it, according to the Minnesota Reformer (as amplified by Marijuana Moment.)

Last year, Winkler led the state’s House to approving the sale of low-dose THC eatables and drinkables. This year, he’s launching Crooked Beverage Company, which will hawk cannabis beverages in retail locations, with as-yet undisclosed business partners.

He sponsored the state’s proposed recreational marijuana legalization bill in 2021, which was voted down in the Senate after being approved by the House. It serves as the model for the legislative proposal that is currently up for debate.

Curiously, Winkler was quoted in a February CBS article bemoaning the lack of distinction in current legislation between products made with marijuana-derived and hemp-derived CBD—without saying that he was getting into the business.

For the record, we see no reason why Winkler, who is also the chair of a legalization advocacy group named Minnesota is Ready, shouldn’t dive head first into the weed biz—but it’s understandable that people are asking him about whether there was a conflict of interest in his political machinations.

“I helped to spearhead and pass legislation on THC edibles and beverages — yes — but when I was doing it it was not for any purpose other than advancing the policy,” Winkler told the Minnesota Reformer. “I don’t understand, I guess, what the argument would be as to why a private citizen can’t start a business in an area that they know something about.”

He’s not alone in seeing snackable cannabis as a growth industry. Last year, a market report predicted that the weed (that’s THC and CBD based) food and drinks industry would exceed $2.82 billion in sales within four years.

Of course, the promotion of cannabis drinks has long been a favorite soapbox for corporate advocates. For proof, you can look to the preponderance of big-time drink companies that have announced a cannabis product over the years, from Budweiser to Constellation Brands (which makes Modelo Especial, Corona, Robert Mondavi wines, and Svedka vodka), Molson Coors, Pabst, and Lagunitas.

At least Winkler was a pro-cannabis politician. Mitch McConnell, the former Senate Majority Leader, has played an active role in blocking several weed legalization legislation packages, and still had the gall to include footage of himself frolicking in a hemp field for a 2020 reelection campaign video. Guy was a major force behind the 2018 US Farm Bill that legalized hemp federally—but apparently he sees an irreconcilable difference between such industrial cannabis (and even CBD!) and other psychoactive uses of weed.

Former Speaker of the House John A. Boehner is another politician who changed his tune about terpenes after blocking weed legalization while in office.

US Representative Earl Blumenauer, who founded the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, once told The New York Times that he confronted Boehner about the discrepancy. “I said, ‘John, where were you when we needed you?’ And he said, ‘I’ve evolved.’”

Follow Caitlin on Instagram, and catch her Spanish-language podcast Crónica on Spotify and Mixcloud.

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Caitlin Donohue
Caitlin Donohue is a Bay Area-raised, Mexico City-based cannabis writer and author of She Represents: 44 Women Who Are Changing Politics and the World. Her weekly show Crónica on Radio Nopal explores Mexican marijuana culture and politics in the prohibition era. Follow Caitlin on IG @byrdwatch.
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