Ed Marszewski and his brother Mike, owners of Marz Community Brewing Co. in Chicago, have been pioneering a range of innovative drinks since 2013. This includes a recent focus on cannabis-infused beverages, tapping into the growing market following Illinois’ legalization of recreational marijuana.

The brothers took over Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar from their mother in 2010 and began brewing experiments that defined Marz as a leader in beverage innovation. From their initial creations incorporating unique ingredients such as tea, syrups, red koji rice, and peach pits, Marz has a history of infusing their brews with unconventional components.

Ed Marszewski’s approach is motivated by a desire to fill gaps in the market. “A lot of what we do is based on this idea that, ‘No one is making interesting X beverage yet in Chicago; why don’t we try?’” he explained. The strategy has differentiated Marz and positioned it as a creative force in a competitive industry.

The evolution of Marz’s product line was further influenced by the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp cultivation, containing 0.3 percent THC or less, as an agricultural product. This legislation inadvertently catalyzed a multibillion-dollar industry focused on hemp-derived CBD and THC products. Seizing the opportunity, Marz introduced Flower Power, a CBD-infused seltzer, followed by a variety of THC-infused beverages, such as Unholy Water and High Pie shrub soda, all uniquely named to capture the brand’s playful spirit.

These innovations come at a time when the cannabis market in Illinois is experiencing significant growth and transformation. Since the state legalized recreational marijuana in 2020, there has been a marked increase in cultural acceptance, regulatory frameworks, and economic investment. Recreational cannabis sales in Illinois soared to $1.6 billion last year, up from $1.5 billion in 2022.

The variety and sophistication of cannabis-infused products within this market have notably increased. Chicagoans now have access to a range of finely crafted products, from Mindy Segal’s precisely dosed edible gummies to THC-infused beverages like those offered by Marz, which cater to both seasoned consumers and newcomers alike.

Despite these advancements, challenges persist. The state’s aim to leverage the cannabis industry as a corrective tool for past injustices against communities of color has seen mixed results. Illinois initiated a social equity program to facilitate participation from historically disadvantaged groups, but critics argue that more support is needed to open doors for these communities.

Further complicating the landscape, concerns over the regulation of delta-8 THC products have prompted calls for stricter oversight. Delta-8 THC, a psychoactive substance derived from cannabis, is milder than delta-9 THC but has raised safety and marketing concerns among industry stakeholders and regulatory bodies like the FDA.

As Marz Community Brewing continues to explore the intersections of craft brewing and cannabis infusion, it represents a microcosm of the industry’s more significant shifts. Marszewski’s commitment to innovation reflects his business acumen and highlights the evolving regulatory and market dynamics shaping the future of cannabis-infused beverages in Chicago and beyond.