Millennials Prefer Weed to Booze — But Why?
Here’s another thing baby boomers can blame millennials for: the incipient decline of the alcohol industry. Data from 2019 has indicated that — barring a global pandemic — younger people simply aren’t drinking as much booze as their forebears. Beer consumption plummeted an almost staggering 1.5 percent since 2018, and hard alcohol decreased in popularity by .8 percent. Already, brewers and liquor companies are moving to fill the gap with non-alcoholic offerings, like teas and energy drinks, but the truth is that millennials seem to be replacing one type of intoxicant for another.
Millennials have grown up with the marijuana industry. California legalized medical marijuana in 1996, and most other states followed suit with similar legislation throughout the ‘00s, as millennials were enduring adolescence. As much of the generation gained adulthood, marijuana legalization efforts were beginning to succeed. Today, marijuana use amongst millennials is rapidly increasing, even as their interest in alcohol wanes.
There are myriad reasons why millennials prefer weed to booze — and here are a few of the most popular.
Perhaps the most significant factor driving millennials away from booze and toward weed is cost. Alcohol is expensive, especially in social settings like clubs and bars. A single night out drinking can easily cost over $50 per person — perhaps much more depending on the location. In contrast, marijuana is consumed so sparingly that $30-worth keeps a stash sufficiently full for about a month.
Admittedly, cannabis costs vary around the country. Patrons of a medical marijuana dispensary in Salem, Oregon pay much less per gram than recreational users in Hollywood, California, for example. Still, sharing a bowl with friends tends to be more affordable than going out to a bar and ordering a night of drinks.
Alcohol is ingested, and usually, alcoholic drinks are jam-packed with unhealthy amounts of sugar and empty calories. Even worse, alcohol severely impairs a drinker’s digestion, reducing nutrient uptake and even slowing down their metabolism, which contributes to increased weight gain. Though body positivity is on the rise amongst millennials, most do not want to gain more fat than their body needs.
While there are some cannabis products that contain calories, like edibles, the most common marijuana uptake method is inhalation, which is calorie-free. Marijuana’s famous effect called “the munchies,” or increased hunger while high, is the result of the drug jumpstarting the user’s metabolism, encouraging the body to use its fat stores and lose weight. Studies comparing cannabis users and non-users found that after three years, users gained less weight than non-users, perhaps as a result of their boosted metabolism or else because users are more aware of their nutrition than non-users are.
The Health Concerns
Extra calories aren’t the only health effects of alcohol. In fact, alcohol is literally a poison to the human body and brain. When the liver is flooded with alcohol, it cannot always process all the alcohol safely. Some alcohol becomes an acid, which leaks into the bloodstream and damages tissues around the body. When there is too much acid, the damage is severe in vital systems like the heart, lungs and brain, and drinkers will die, or else sustain lasting injuries. Hangovers are signs that acid has built up over the course of a night of drinking.
In truth, not much research is available with regards to long-term effects of marijuana use. Because cannabis has been illegal for the last century, scientists have not been able to study users health over time. Still, we know enough about how marijuana interacts with the body to be certain that the drug isn’t functioning as a poison; rather, it delivers effects by modifying the output of the endocannabinoid system. It is impossible to overdose on marijuana in a way that directly results in death. Though users who smoke marijuana might sustain damage to their respiratory systems over the course of their lifetimes, weed appears much safer than alcohol.
Though non-users might recognize only the earthy, skunky odor of marijuana smoke, most regular users understand that weed has a wide world of flavors and aromas worth exploring. Different strains of cannabis have different terpene profiles, which can provide a different experience. Not only is it fun to develop one’s pot palette, but pairing cannabis with foods and beverages can be a new and exhilarating challenge.
Meanwhile, alcohol connoisseurship is nothing new, to the point that many millennials aren’t interested in or impressed by those who can parse different flavors from a glass of wine or who are snobbish about their beer brewers.
By no means is the decline of alcohol rapid or unanticipated. Drinking rates have been slowly decreasing for decades, and marijuana use was expected to increase as states begin passing more adult-use measures. Still, it will be interesting to see how millennials maintain this trend as they age and how younger generations follow suit.