Cannabis opponents have been wrong before. Now they appear to be wrong again.
Opponents of cannabis legalization were adamant that more legal, available recreational cannabis would lead to more alcohol intoxication…then harder drugs…then to a drug-fueled society out of control.
Cannabis was a gateway to hell.
But guess what? Turns out alcohol as a social lubricant has been losing its appeal as cannabis becomes more of the intoxicant of choice. Alcohol—that substance that could literally kill you in one chug-a-lug sitting, that substance that could get you addicted because somewhere in your brain you needed it, that substance that has a long history of changing people from happy-go-lucky productive citizens into drooling homeless people—has been outed for what it is. Poison. The real gateway drug.
Rising up today is cannabis as the intoxicant of choice, the social lubricant of a new generation. Not addictive (most agree). Not deadly (some disagree-see driving stats, they say). No hangovers (all agree).
Sure, there is hope for the alcoholic. There is Alcoholics Anonymous. And you can overcome your alcohol addiction by following a plan like charting your drinking, or building drink refusal skills using some scripted lines. There are literally hundreds of ways of getting sober. Most caution that even sober, you will always be an addict.
But today’s partier has enough to worry about without adding the stress of overcoming an addiction like with alcohol, an addiction that probably spun out of the use of alcohol at socially approved gatherings, reinforced by a massive alcohol marketing machine that makes you want to slam a beer just about anywhere, anytime, because that’s how you get and keep friends—or impress the opposite sex with you social slurring skills. Or just be the life of the party, as you slowly kill yourself, sip after sip.
Alcohol abuse sloshes on. You probably know the stats but let’s review…
Nearly 70% of adults said that they drank alcohol in the past year; 55% in the last month. Over 14 million U.S. adults suffer from alcohol use disorder, along with over 400,000 youths ages 12 to 17. An estimated 95,0005 people (approximately 68,000 men and 27,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Alcohol misuse costs this country nearly a quarter of a billion dollars a year.
So why, WHY jump on that particularly ugly, boozy bad-idea bandwagon when there is cannabis, a sweet yet complicated plant winking to you in the wings at the party stage, ready to give you a buzz maybe reminiscent of an alcohol buzz (beer is made with fermented hops, which is a close plant cousin of cannabis). But so much better for you in so many ways.
Cannabis is not the evil perpetrator of disaster like alcohol.
Cannabis doesn’t own you. It calmly rents your mind, it slyly tweaks your body in a good way. Then it goes away. It still lets you be you during and after you consume.
It’s becoming the new choice for today’s social imbiber, and it’s growing in popularity as alcohol sales crash and burn and more states legalize recreational cannabis. As of November 3, 15 states and the District of Columbia have now either enacted or have voted to enact adult-use legalization laws, while 36 states have either enacted or have voted to enact medical marijuana access laws.
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Getting high on cannabis is quickly becoming the new normal for a healthier way to unwind, for living longer, and prospering. Less alcohol, better partying, healthier outcome.
But amid all this feel-good huzzah-ing, studies have shown conflicting results.
For example, the Distilled Spirits Council reported in January, 2019, that, in the three states with the longest history of legalized recreational marijuana sales—Colorado, Washington state and Oregon—there is no evidence that legalization has had any impact on spirits sales, nor is there any evidence that it has impacted total alcohol sales. People are getting just as hammered on alcohol as always.
A 2017 study published in SSM – Population Health showed a definite increase in cannabis consumption states that legalized, like Washington, but that alcohol usage didn’t increase.
Yet another study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research showed that people who consume both cannabis and alcohol tend to use them at the same time, and that simultaneous use was associated with increased frequency and quantity of alcohol use. “Individuals who use both cannabis and alcohol may be inherently more susceptible to poly-substance use because of common genetic vulnerabilities.”
What this all means is that it’s cool to just consume cannabis, but when you start drinking and smoking, the pathway to abuse turns into a slippery downhill slope.
But there is also a trend for less alcohol consumption and more marijuana consumption.
Fewer college-age Americans drink alcohol, compared to nearly 20 years ago, according to a new study in Journal for American Medical Association – Pediatrics.
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Between 2002 and 2018, the number of adults aged 18-22 in the U.S. who abstained from alcohol increased from 20% to 28% for those in college, according to study researchers at the University of Michigan and Texas State University. And alcohol abuse among both groups decreased by roughly half.
But wait, there’s more.
There is some indication that consuming cannabis can actually help treat alcohol addiction. And doctors have tried using cannabis to calm the hallucinations of a severely addicted alcoholics, instead of using an intravenous concoction of benzodiazepam.
Then there are other studies examining the alleged physiological addiction to cannabis, complete with withdrawal symptoms that need to be managed.
And frankly, figuring out if consuming a complicated plant is either good or bad can go either way, precisely because of its complications—and, to a certain extent, whatever entity may be bankrolling the study.
Whatever the case, industry sees the opportunities in cannabis-infused non-alcoholic drinks, and marches on.
In May, Constellation Brands, makers of Negro Modelo, Corona, and Pacifico, doubled down on their $4 billion investment in cannabis grower Canopy Growth, as they tickle the edges of making and marketing their own cannabis-infused beer.
The huge Anheuser-Busch-InBev alcohol behemoth is betting millions on a consumer preference for cannabis-infused drinks, and have been putting more efforts into athlete-endorsed non-alcoholic beers as they apologize for past sins and want to “reinvent how we drink” (“The harmful use of alcohol has no upside – it’s bad for people, for society, and for our business.”)
And smaller craft breweries, like Ceria Brewing Company in Arvada, Colorado, with their THC and CBD-infused beer and other non-alcoholic beers, are popping up all over to tap into the growing cannabis-infused beer-and-wine crowd.
The non-alcoholic beer market is expected to reach $25 billion by 2024, giving additional credence to the no-alcohol, more cannabis theory.
Go ahead this holiday season and chose your intoxicant wisely. Choose a non-alcoholic beer paired with a cannabis smoke. Or choose to just get high and let the holiday CBD/THC buzz warm your mind and body.
Maybe the best thing to come out of this Shakespearean tragedy of 2020 with its raging pandemic chorus is that we all make better, healthier choices. Methinks it’s time for cannabis to take a bow.