Gen Z Prefers Weed Over Booze

Generation Z has been shaped by a variety of dynamics that have dominated their young lives: technology and social media, social justice movements and, according to fresh research, abundant access to cannabis.

That is perhaps the chief takeaway from a study conducted by New Frontier Data, a firm that specializes in research on cannabis policy.

The study, released last week, found that 69% of individuals aged 18-24 prefer cannabis over alcohol.

In fact, the figures were comparable among the next two age cohorts: 70% of those between the ages of 25 and 34 said they also prefer weed, while 68% of those aged 35-44 said the same.

The numbers are indicative of emerging generations of young adults who came of age at a time when a large and growing number of states and cities throughout the United States have legalized recreational cannabis for adults.

Moreover, polls routinely show large majorities of young Americans support ending the prohibition on pot.

New Frontier Data noted in the study’s analysis that Generation Z, AKA “Zoomers,” or individuals born between 1997 and 2012, “were between birth or age 15 when the first states legalized cannabis.”

“Gen Z is the first generation to be of legal consumption age in an environment with widespread adult-use cannabis access,” New Frontier Data’s vice president of public policy research Amanda Reiman told Bloomberg.

Bloomberg reported that New Frontier Data’s study “included 4,170 current cannabis consumers and 1,250 nonconsumers, found that the preference seems to fade with age, with just 44% of respondents aged 65 to 74 choosing weed over booze.”

While the research suggests a greater familiarity and comfort with cannabis, it also indicates that young people are generally less drawn to alcohol and tobacco than their older peers.

“A recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health by researchers at the University of Washington looked at alcohol and tobacco consumption among Gen Zers in Washington during 2014-2019,” the New Frontier researchers wrote. “Those findings saw declines in each past-month alcohol use, heavy episodic drinking, and cigarette use during that period. It is possible that the reductions were related to an overall disinterest in alcohol and tobacco among individuals in Gen Z, an observation supported in the New Frontier Data Consumer Survey.”

“Cannabis consumers aged 18-24 were most likely to say they never drank alcohol (19.7%), and the least likely to say that they drank every day (5.9%). They were also the most likely (among those under age 55) to say that they never used tobacco (39.3%), and the least likely (among those under 65) to say that they used it every day (26.3%),” the researchers continued.

Among individuals aged 18-24, “more than half (56%) reported replacing some of their alcohol with cannabis, compared to nearly 60% among ages 25-34, and more than 60% among 35-44-year-olds,” according to the study, which noted that those “rates declined further among older cohorts, from over 44% among ages 45-54, to about 43% among ages 55-64, and nearly 30% among ages 65-74.”

“The numbers suggest that young people are learning to navigate the legal cannabis landscape without adopting compulsive, increased use, and may also be less likely to consume either alcohol or tobacco, thereby making cannabis their drug of choice,” the researchers wrote in their concluding analysis. “Considering that cannabis carries a lower risk of dependence than do either alcohol or tobacco – and presents no risk of either fatal overdose (e.g., alcohol) or long-term impacts to the lungs (e.g., tobacco) – it suggests that the younger generation may indeed be making more considered choices about their consumption patterns.”

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Study Finds Cannabis Legalization Source of Decreased Alcohol and Tobacco Consumption

A new study published on May 9 in the Journal of Adolescent Health shows evidence that cannabis legalization has brought down the consumption of alcohol and cigarettes in youth consumers. Entitled “Trends in Alcohol, Cigarette, E-Cigarette, and Nonprescribed Pain Reliever Use Among Young Adults in Washington State After Legalization of Nonmedical Cannabis,” the study includes the analysis of six waves of survey data collected between 2014 and 2019. Researchers from the University of Washington reviewed data which covered approximately 12,500 adolescents.

“Prevalence of past-month alcohol use, heavy episodic drinking (HED), and cigarette use and prevalence of past-year pain reliever misuse decreased, while the prevalence of past-month e-cigarette use increased since 2016 (the first year assessed),” researchers wrote about the results. “Across years and age groups, the prevalence of substance use other than cannabis was higher among occasional and frequent cannabis users compared to cannabis nonusers.”

As the years continued and more states began working on legalization programs, many of these consumption habits began to decrease over time. “However, associations between both occasional (1–19 days in the prior month) and frequent (20+ days) cannabis use and pain reliever misuse and between frequent cannabis use and HED weakened over time among individuals ages 21–25.”

“Contrary to concerns about spillover effects, implementation of legalized nonmedical cannabis coincided with decreases in alcohol and cigarette use and pain reliever misuse,” researchers concluded.

However, it is commonly recommended that more studies be conducted to better understand the effects of legalization on youth consumption. “The weakening association of cannabis use with the use of other substances among individuals ages 21–25 requires further research but may suggest increased importance of cannabis-specific prevention and treatment efforts,” researchers wrote.

Many other studies have evaluated the influence of cannabis on young adults from a variety of perspectives. A study published earlier this week questioned the effect of cannabis being portrayed positively on TikTok as a concern for the youth who frequently use the app.

In March 2022, a policy paper released by the Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education and Regulation (CPEAR) analyzed youth cannabis consumption as well, and also reported that youth cannabis consumption hasn’t increased since legalization began. Results claim that continued work in creating a federal framework to help curb cannabis misuse by youth in the U.S. is essential and recommended a focus on eliminating access to illegal cannabis in the process.

In March 2021, another study was published, with an analysis of 46 states and data collected between 1991-2015. “This study found no evidence between 1991 and 2015 of increases in adolescents reporting past 30-day marijuana use or heavy marijuana use associated with state MML (medical marijuana law) enactment or operational MML dispensaries,” the authors wrote in their abstract.

Back in 2020, yet another study explored the effects of legalization, and found that there was little impact on youth specifically in California. “Contrary to the claims of many legalization opponents, changes in states’ marijuana policies have not led to any significant rise in cannabis use among young people,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said about the study. “Overall, most voters believe that these adult-use policies are operating as intended, which is why no state that has legalized the use of cannabis for either medical or adult-use purposes has ever repealed their law.”

These studies go back to the earlier years of adult-use legalization, as seen in published findings from 2016 from the Colorado Health Department who found teens saying that four out of five high school students “say they don’t use marijuana, even occasionally.”

While these studies help show that youth cannabis consumption has not increased, there is still the question of how cannabis consumption affects young adults’ minds. Some studies claim that cigarettes cause the decline of grades more than cannabis does, according to a 2016 study. However, in 2018 a study found evidence that kid’s cognitive development can be affected, followed by another study in 2019 that found no link between adolescent cannabis consumption and adult brain structure. Due to the conflicting information, more studies are necessary in order to learn more about how cannabis affects adolescents.

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Why Are So Many Americans in Legal States Still Dying From Alcohol-Related Causes?

Throughout the past decade, the phrase “Cannabis is Safer Than Alcohol” has become the official slogan for why the average stoner should damn well be able to appreciate the same freedom as those who enjoy a stiff drink. After all, pot is arguably less risky than the sauce Americans pour down their gullets during sporting events, weekends, or any other day where it becomes absolutely imperative to either celebrate the good times or drown out the bad. But no matter how tightly the bottle is woven into the puke-stained fabric of civil society, alcohol remains one of the most savage serial killers of any inebriating substance, legal or not.

The nation’s affinity for all things beer, wine, and spirits snuffs out roughly 95,000 diehard drinkers from ills such as liver failure and cancer every year. Meanwhile, the most horrendous consequence that the average cannabis fan might endure, at least as far as we can tell, is perhaps putting on a few extra pounds after stuffing their face with everything in the kitchen once the munchies kick in. But we digress. Considering what we know about both substances, the plant does appear to be a safer alternative to alcoholic beverages. A legion of advocates even claim that legalization may assist in pulling the great, slobbering drunkard out of the nation’s gutter of destitution and despair, ultimately putting them on the path of the straight and narrow.

Fast forward some years, and cannabis legalization for adults 21 and older has taken hold across more of the country. Yet, alcohol-related harms continue to increase. In Colorado, one of the first states to legalize the leaf in a manner similar to alcohol, booze continues to wreak havoc.

A recent study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) finds that alcohol-related deaths increased by nearly 30% in the Centennial State during 2020. Despite having the option of using cannabis as opposed to alcohol for the past eight years, Colorado residents are evidently still drinking themselves to death at alarming numbers. Liver disease, alcohol poisoning, unsafe behavior under the influence, mental health conditions, and alcohol-induced damage to other organs are turning up on coroner’s reports like wildfire. This uptick in booze-related death isn’t just happening in Colorado either. In other legal states, the statistics are similar. Overall, with or without pot, people are still drinking in excess and paying the price.

Nevertheless, some cannabis supporters still believe that legal weed could be a saving grace for an inebriated nation. “That’s the whole reason the alcohol companies have fought so hard all these years to stop marijuana from going legal,” Logan, a 34-year-old from Houston, Texas, tells High Times. “They know they’d lose billions of dollars.” Logan is one of the many pot purists on the cannabis scene who believes the green is an exit drug, and it’s one that he thinks will secure more fanfare than alcohol ever has. “I know several people who were on their third or fourth DUI and nearly homeless that have gotten sober because they switched to cannabis,” he declared.

Logan may be onto something.

In an attempt to get to the bottom of this controversy, High Times reached out to the scientific minds connected to the NIAAA alcohol study to see if they had any idea why alcohol-related harms are still on the rise in states where cannabis is legal. But not even Uncle Sam’s health cronies understand how cannabis legalization is affecting the sudsy minds of the great American lush.

“We simply don’t have a clear picture yet of how marijuana legalization impacts alcohol consumption and related harms,” George F. Koob, Ph.D. and Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, tells High Times. The most the agency’s research has uncovered so far, Koob asserts, is mounting proof that the consumption of both cannabis and alcohol simultaneously is leading to more roadway hazards. “There is building evidence of increased harm associated with driving under the influence of both marijuana and alcohol,” he added.

It is crucial to point out that the NIAAA study did not, in any way, compare alcohol consumption rates to cannabis use. It merely reveals the savage nature of alcohol abuse in this country. Equally important, the study shows there were just as many alcohol-related deaths in states where pot is still considered an outlaw drug. Alcohol-related harms are on the rise in every state. What’s disheartening, however, is there’s no reported decrease in states with legal weed. And that’s the point of this article. Cannabis might be safer than alcohol. Being high could be a solid alternative to drunkenness. But most people who enjoy a drink now and again, which were not cannabis users to begin with, are probably not going to make the switch.

There may have been some reductions in alcohol consumption in states that have legalized (meaning that some people were likely successful at either cutting back or quitting entirely based on having access to legal weed). Those people, presumably the silent success stories, simply got lost in a significant uptick in alcohol-related harm. More research is required on this subject before the tale of the toker getting sober is properly told. With that said, however, some studies do, in fact, show that the concept of cannabis as a replacement for booze is tenable.

In 2009, researchers at the University of California in Berkeley polled hundreds of medical cannabis patients and found that most of them used cannabis as an alternative to alcohol. Other studies have uncovered similar results. “Across the sample, individuals drank approximately 29 percent fewer drinks and were 2.06 times less likely to have a binge-drinking episode on days that cannabis was used compared with days cannabis was not used. These patterns were observed in males, females, and the infrequent and frequent cannabis use groups,” reports a team of scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Colorado State University.

The medical professionals we spoke to say cannabis can absolutely help those ravaged by alcohol find some peace from beyond the bottle. The caveat is that the desire to give up drinking is essential, and the results are not absolute. “For people who want to cut down or stop alcohol, cannabis can be a viable substitute,” Dr. Jordan Tishler, CEO of InhaleMD and Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, tells High Times. The problem is many people use cannabis and alcohol together. “Use of cannabis will not, on its own, lead to less alcohol use,” he said.

Dr. Tishler doesn’t provide medical cannabis recommendations for patients trying to curb their alcohol use, but he admits that many still report less alcohol consumption. “I have many patients who report using less or stopping alcohol use,” the good doctor said. “However, for most patients, this seems incidental to their care (or maybe a side benefit). I believe it really comes down to whether they are looking to cut back the alcohol and whether they are motivated to do so. Overall, I think cannabis can be helpful in the context of intentional cutting down of alcohol but is not going to cause cutting down on alcohol just because cannabis is being used.”

While weed is likely a healthier choice than alcohol, it doesn’t appear that legalization is helping to dry up an unsober nation. And that’s okay. The cannabis plant doesn’t have to cure the sick, raise the dead or perform any other miracles for the downtrodden of mankind to be deserving of legal status. More to the point, cannabis users shouldn’t be considered any less civilized and law-abiding because their drug of choice isn’t healing the ills of an alcoholic society.

If you ask Dr. Tishler, a longtime proponent of pot for medicinal purposes, the Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol spiel should be permanently canned for the well-being of the nation. Although the slogan builds a solid case in favor of legalization, it does nothing to benefit the health and safety of the population as cannabis consumption becomes more prevalent nationwide.

“There are good data to support the idea that head-to-head cannabis is safer than alcohol, but in reality, neither is entirely safe,” Dr. Tishler said. “Saying that cannabis is safer than alcohol sounds like a good argument for legalizing cannabis, but it really just overlooks the risks of cannabis for political gain.”

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Weed Sales Outpace Alcohol for First Time in Massachusetts

Cannabis tax revenue in Massachusetts is performing better than projected, over four years into the state’s adult-use market. According to the most recently available data, Massachusetts reported collecting $74.2 million in marijuana excise taxes—much more than the $51.3 million in alcohol excise taxes that were collected. 

Alcohol sales continue the downward trend that began two decades ago, according to data collected by Gallup polling, despite a temporary sharp uptick in alcohol sales amid COVID. Analysts have wondered if there is a correlation between cannabis reform and alcohol sales.

The trends seen in Massachusetts are no different. Fortune reports that alcohol excise taxes imposed on each gallon of alcohol produced also remained flat over the last five years, at $0.55 per gallon of wine, and $4.05 per gallon of hard alcohol. 

Massachusetts collected over $112 million in adult-use cannabis sales excise tax revenue in 2021—206 percent higher than projected—according to a Monthly Public Meeting presentation from data from the state’s Cannabis Control Commission. 

“This number also underscores the entire agency’s tireless efforts, particularly those of our hardworking staff, to thoughtfully regulate a safe, accessible, and effective adult-use marketplace that keeps critical tenets of our mission—public health, public safety, and equity, among others—front of mind,” Commission Executive Director Shawn Collins said in a statement on January 25. 

The state charges an excise tax of 10.75 percent on the projected retail price of recreational cannabis in addition to a 6.25 percent state sales tax, plus a local tax of up to three percent. 

Cannabis sales are doing much better than anticipated, despite all of the hiccups along the way such as COVID. But analysts say the surge in cannabis sales in Massachusetts comes at no surprise.

Vivien Azer, a Wall Street research analyst and managing director at Cowen who covers the emerging cannabis sector told local news station WCBV that when states convert from medical cannabis to adult-use, it typically leads to a doubling or even tripling of revenues “almost overnight.”

Kicking off recreational cannabis sales in any state is something of a spectacle to be celebrated.

Mikayla Bell, community outreach manager for NETA, one of the largest cannabis retailers in the state. “I think that people are looking for an alternative to make them feel better,” Bell told WCBV. “Oftentimes people are turning to alcohol for relief. And now they found another product with without the hangover, without the calories.”

Cannabis sales in Massachusetts high a milestone last September when sales in the state eclipsed $2 billion.

During the first year of cannabis sales, from November 2018 through 2019, 33 cannabis retailers generated $393.7 million in gross sales. Sales for all of the 2019 calendar year reached $444.9 million. 

In 2020, 91 adult-use cannabis retailers tallied $702 million in gross sales, despite being closed for two months due to the pandemic.

Most states impose a relatively high excise tax rate on cannabis. California’s cannabis tax hike didn’t go over well with legacy growers, for instance. But cannabis isn’t the only industry that faces steep taxes.

Alcohol taxes in Massachusetts could soon see a hike as well. State Representative Kay Khan filed a bill to double the excise taxes on beer, wine and liquor with H 2973. The state spends $2.6 billion each year to combat alcoholism and addiction, and should consider making the industry pay for that themselves.

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Will Cannabis Breathalyzers Really Work? Probably Not. Here’s Why:

Cannabis breathalyzers are being made right now, but will they really work? Probably not, but let’s take a look at them. Cannabis breathalyzers work much like their alcohol counterparts. Hound Labs, one of the companies trying to commercialize this new tech, is developing a simple-to-use breathalyzer device. A person blows into a small tube, and […]

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Cold Front Coming – How to stay warm without power

A severe weather warning has been issued for Western Canada, as a cold front is headed our way. Temperatures are predicted to drop anywhere from ten to twenty degrees below the average. The forecast is calling for snow and high winds, and it’s expected to last until Sunday. This Christmas, expect a cold, windy blizzard… […]

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Are Regulations Around Cannabis Drinks Changing?

Regulations around cannabis drinks will likely start changing soon. Recently, cannabis companies and advocates are pushing Health Canada to reshape regulations. Cannabis beverages have become a new trend, but you might have noticed some annoyances when buying them. For example, have you ever tried buying CBD-infused beer? These drinks usually come in single cans and […]

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Animals getting high and drunk – An Outrageous Crossword Puzzle

What you are about to read contains ridiculousness, so get ready for some shenanigans. But, before you go any further, try your luck with the crossword puzzle. It’s about wild animals tripping out and getting high. Below the crossword, you will find the answers and explanations behind them… that is if one can explain such […]

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College-Age Adults Getting High at Historic Levels

Marijuana use by college students continued to rise over the past five years, while cannabis use by their same-age peers stayed historically high, according to the latest results of a national study tracking substance use by young adults released this week. 

The National Institutes of Health on Wednesday released data from the 2020 Monitoring the Future study, which has been collecting information on alcohol and drug use by young adults aged 19 through 22 since 1980.

Nora D. Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), noted in a press release on Wednesday that, in addition to the increase in marijuana use, college students reported a significant rise in the use of hallucinogens and a substantial drop in alcohol use between 2019 and 2020.

“The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed the way that young people interact with one another and offers us an opportunity to examine whether drug-taking behavior has shifted through these changes,” Volcow said. “Moving forward, it will be critical to investigate how and when different substances are used among this young population, and the impact of these shifts over time.”

Marijuana Use Up Significantly

Among college students, 44 percent reported using marijuana during the past year in 2020, compared to 38 percent in 2015. For those not in college, past-year marijuana use remained at the historically high level of 43 percent in 2020, the same rate reported in 2018 and 2019.

Daily use of marijuana (defined as using marijuana on 20 or more occasions in the past 30 days) has also continued to rise, with eight percent of college students reporting daily use compared to five percent in 2015. For adults of the same age not in college, 13 percent reported using cannabis on a daily basis.

“Daily marijuana use is a clear health risk,” said John Schulenberg, lead investigator of the Monitoring the Future study. “The brain is still developing in the early 20s, and as the Surgeon General and others have reported, the scientific evidence indicates that heavy marijuana use can be detrimental to cognitive functioning and mental health.”

“As of 2020, almost one in 12 college students used marijuana on a daily basis, and we know from our research and that of others that heavy marijuana use is associated with poor academic performance and dropping out of college,” Schulenberg continued. “For the almost one in seven young adults aged 19-22 not in college who are daily marijuana users, getting a foothold on the roles and responsibilities of adulthood may be all the more difficult. Of course, the landscape of cannabis use is changing, so continued research is needed regarding negative consequences of heavy use.”

Schulenberg and his fellow researchers cited several likely causes of the increase in marijuana use among college-aged adults, including a reduced perception of harm associated with daily marijuana use. In 2020, 21 percent perceived regular cannabis use as carrying a great risk of harm, the lowest level since 1980.

Use of Hallucinogens Also Up

The use of hallucinogens including LSD, psilocybin mushrooms and other psychedelic substances also increased significantly between 2019 and 2020. Last year, almost nine percent of college students reported using any psychedelic drug, compared to five percent in 2019. The use of hallucinogens by those not in college did not increase significantly, remaining somewhat consistent at about 10 percent in 2020 compared to eight percent in 2019.

“This continued increase in the use of hallucinogens corresponds with the decrease in the perception that hallucinogens are harmful,” Schulenberg said. “For example, the perception that experimental use of LSD carries great harm was at only 28 percent in 2020 among 19-to-22-year-olds. This is an all-time low over the past four decades and far below the highest level of 50 percent in 1989.”

Alcohol use by college students, however, showed a significant drop in 2020, with 56 percent reporting drinking in the past 30 days compared to 62 percent in 2019. Additionally, 28 percent of college students said that they had gotten drunk in the past 30 days, down from 35 percent in 2019, while 24 percent reported binge drinking (drinking five or more drinks in a row during the past two weeks) in 2020, compared to 32 percent the year before. Alcohol use by non-college students remained fairly consistent across all measures, with no reported drop in 2020.

“Historically, college students have reported the highest levels of binge drinking compared to same-aged youth who are not enrolled in college. This is the first year where binge drinking was similar between the two groups,” Schulenberg said. “While binge drinking has been gradually declining among college students for the past few decades, this is a new historic low, which may reflect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of reduced time with college friends.”

The Monitoring the Future study has been tracking substance use by young adults ages 19 to 22 since 1980. Funded by NIDA, the survey is conducted annually by scientists at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, Ann Arbor. Results are based on data collected from full-time college students one to four years past high school graduation compared to high school graduates of the same age who are not enrolled in college full time.

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Episode 373 – Cannabis Corporations vs. Consumers?

Heather Sullivan and first-time guest Matt Walter join first-time host Ben Larson to talk about the growing complexities involved with legal marijuana markets, corporations, and legislative reform; the regulations governing investing in cannabis; and the similarities between legal marijuana and other vice industries. Produced by Shea Gunther.