Alcohol versus cannabis — it often seems like these two staples of American culture and commerce are at odds with each other. There’s definitely some truth to that, but the whole truth is much more complicated.
Notwithstanding the reality that lots of people use both alcohol and cannabis, there’s a persistent cultural rift between the two substances. There’s also a big difference in the scope and complexity of those two markets; for one thing, the U.S. alcohol industry escaped the outlaw life back in 1933 and the cannabis industry is still struggling to go legit.
And where the supply chain for alcohol has few if any kinks in it — Budweiser costs and tastes roughly the same anywhere in the world — the checkerboard laws and regional quality (and availability, and cost, and variety) when it comes to cannabis conspire to create a much less homogeneous market.
Then again, one reason this conversation is often framed as a war between the two industries is that… well, there’s sort of a war between the two industries. To be fair, it’s sort of a cold war and a fairly one-sided one at that. The sales figures of the two industries may be comparable, but the corporate organization of alcohol is apparent in its organized efforts to undercut legal cannabis — from the alcohol industry’s lobbying efforts to focus legislative resources on “stoned driving” laws (creating negative press for decriminalization in the process) to the litigious machinations of alcohol distributors in Nevada.
But there are some alcohol industry participants that are embracing an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach to coexisting with cannabis. One oft-cited example is the California-based Lagunitas Brewing Company, which not only supports the cannabis industry through its sponsorship of industry events like the 420 Games, but also embraces the culture of cannabis through offerings like a collaboration with AbsoluteXtracts that saw the creation of hop flavored cannabis cartridges and cannabis terpene-flavored (but cannabinoid-free) beer.
Lagunitas Director of Communications Karen Hamilton said in a statement that the brewing company wanted to “see what we would come up with if we started brainstorming together” with cannabis companies.
CEO of AbsoluteXtracts’ parent company CannaCraft, Ned Fussell, told Cannabis Now last August that they were excited to work with a brewing company that had an ethos that matched their own.
“When we first started thinking about partnering with a brewery we wanted to work with people who love what they do and take as much pride in their finished product as we do,” Fussell said. “We also knew this could be controversial so we needed to find a partner that was comfortable exploring this new territory with us.”
And while the collaboration has so far yielded largely positive responses for both companies, the “controversial” nature of the project hasn’t diminished, with only a few other companies actively pursuing alcohol cannabis combinations.
Jetty Extracts also collaborated with the Thorn Street Brewery, an even smaller California based operation, to create the OG HighPA.
In August, the Wine and Weed Symposium in Sonoma County brought together industry insiders from both industries, and many speakers concluded that the two markets were not mutually exclusive.
Then again, it’s fair enough to suggest that these collabs might just be a fluke of California’s cannabis saturated culture — it is the only state in the union where you can legally infuse wine with weed.
And on a certain level, this stick and carrot routine by the alcohol industry makes sense — cannabis seems to present a meaningful, if not lethal, challenge to alcohol sales: Forbes reported that, according to independent analysis, nearly 30 percent of beer drinkers have switched or would consider switching from beer to cannabis, and that beer sales could experience losses as high as $2 billion.
It remains to be seen what shape the future interactions between alcohol and cannabis business will take, and much of that will be informed by the progress (or lack thereof) when it comes to a national framework for legal cannabis. But for the time being, there’s little more than an uneasy detente between the firmly entrenched alcohol industry and the upstart legal cannabis market.
TELL US, do you use both cannabis and alcohol?