With legalization sweeping the country, cannabis has become more mainstream. It’s also become the substance of choice for a growing number of millennials who are substituting booze for bud.
A study by cannabis company OutCo, in partnership with Monocle Research, found that more than half of Californians between the ages of 18 and 29 are opting for cannabis instead of alcohol. “We found that for millennials, the choice between the two main recreational substances, alcohol and tobacco, has always been an easy one. Growing up with anti-tobacco messaging, the smoking rate for 18-29 year olds in the U.S. has dropped by 22 percent over the past decade, leaving alcohol as the substance of choice,” said Lincoln Fish, CEO of OutCo. “But we are already seeing a decrease in alcohol sales, which means that cannabis is poised to be the new recreational substance of choice for many millennials and beyond.”
The study found beer to be the drink most frequently subbed out for weed. Thirty-four percent of respondents said they replaced beer with cannabis, followed by 18 percent who replaced wine, and 14 percent who replaced spirits. Moreover, while millennials took the lead in bud-for-booze substitution, Generation Xers (20 percent) and Baby Boomers (8 percent) straggled not far behind. Most respondents cited California’s new legalization policy, safety, cost, and health as motivating factors behind the substitution.
But for many, the choice is highly personal, and as cannabis becomes legal in more places, or more mainstream around the country, people have the opportunity to experiment and decide what works best for them.
“Alcohol cost me a father, grandfather, uncle, my health, dignity, relationships with good people. Additionally, I injured myself many times while drunk,” says Steven Mrowzinski, a medical marijuana patient in New York. “On the other hand, cannabis has helped preserve my health, helps me stay calm, helps me rest and digest. I find it helps me cope. Cannabis is a natural antidepressant.”
Sarah, a 29-year-old Brooklynite who quit alcohol this year, describes how booze made her angry and distanced her from reality. “Meanwhile weed makes you listen to your mind and gives you a break from stress,” she says. And for those like Sam, a 20-year-old from the greater New York area, prescribed for mood stabilizers, antidepressants, or bipolar medications, alcohol can be even more harmful, he says. “I just got off hard substances. After putting everything I had and have in my life at risk for a few friends, who I chose over better influences, cannabis kept me alive at times where my mind failed, while trying to get my life in order.”
As cannabis is increasingly normalized, with less stigma of an illegal drug, people are becoming more comfortable using it as a substitute, regardless of state law — such as in New York, where most cannabis consumers are not medical marijuana patients. The development of the industry also gives people more options.
“I feel fulfilled with all the variety of strain choices of cannabis to elevate or inspire my mood,” Steven Deyo, a 27-year-old songwriter and co-owner of Blackwood Studios recording studio in Los Angeles. People can now not just substitute cannabis for alcohol, but can also experiment with different kinds of cannabis for their different needs, be it sleep, productivity, or mood enhancement.
“I basically quit drinking because it affected my productivity. I’m a major proponent of harm reduction. Cannabis is the safest recreational substance that I’ve found,” says Adam Lustig, founder of Higher Vision Cannabis, based out of northern California. “If you have to be addicted to something, like most people are, Cannabis is the safest choice. I’m more productive on Cannabis than I ever was when I drank.”
The different modes of ingestion have also helped people make the switch. Janine, an advertising executive from New York, says edibles and vape pens helped her consume cannabis more discreetly while also helping her save money on booze. “The more I could incorporate cannabis in my after work socializing, the less I needed to drink,” she says. “Cannabis never made me violent the way alcohol did and helped me appreciate everything down to the subway ride home, rather than howling in depressed alcoholic tears. And more importantly, cannabis is a journey, and using it with an intention before a music show has been amazing for helping me work through psychological or spiritual concerns in a conducive environment.”