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The Rise of Cannabis-Infused Beverages as a Social Alternative to Alcohol

How do sophisticated adults unwind after a long day? Images from popular media and movies suggest consuming alcohol is the perfect way to relax and enjoy the company of family and friends. Imbibing alcohol at social engagements and functions has turned into a social norm for many people.

Since the end of prohibition, there has been less stigma over consuming alcohol as opposed to other mind-altering substances like cannabis. Alcohol consumption is socially acceptable and sometimes even expected at specific events or celebrations. Cannabis consumption, on the other hand, has suffered under the weight of the “War on Drugs” and federal prohibition. As more states move to legalize recreational weed, cannabis consumption is slowly becoming more acceptable, although still not to the same degree as alcohol.

Today, some cannabis companies are looking to shift the narrative, especially as younger populations move away from beer and alcohol. For businesses hoping to capitalize on the growing cannabis movement, cannabis-infused beverages are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to traditional alcoholic-based drinks.

A True Alcohol Replacement?

Like everything else, moderation is the key to enjoying something without adverse effects. Many people enjoy the taste and relaxing effects of alcoholic beverages like beer, wine, or mixed cocktails. However, overconsumption and long-term heavy alcohol abuse can lead to detrimental physical and mental health conditions, financial consequences, and dependence.

Alcohol is poison. The World Health Organization lists alcohol as a toxic substance and a known carcinogen. The liver is amazingly effective at breaking down and eliminating the dangerous toxins created when you consume alcohol. However, over time, the toxicity of alcohol and the harmful byproducts of metabolizing alcohol, like acetaldehyde, can damage this vital organ, leading to hepatitis, cancer, alcohol-associated liver disease, and cirrhosis. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol use can also lead to high blood pressure, stroke, digestive issues, heart disease, memory problems, depression, and addiction.

There are other risk factors associated with alcohol use, such as alcohol poisoning, increased risk of violence, and risky behaviors due to impaired judgment. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 37 people in the U.S. die in drunk driving-related crashes every day.

These facts aren’t fearmongering. Adults can reasonably enjoy alcoholic beverages and live normal and healthy lives. However, young people are increasingly pointing to many of these dangerous alcohol associations as reasons why they are drinking less and are becoming more “sober curious.” Reports indicate that GenZ is drinking less alcohol, snubbing alcohol consumption far more than previous generations.

The non-alcoholic beverage and mocktail industry is expanding tremendously due to demand from younger demographics to be more mindful of moderation and abstinence. Cannabis companies are looking to fill the void, shifting the market further away from traditional alcoholic beverages and toward alternatives like cannabis-infused beverages.

Cannabis-Infused Beverages as a Social Alternative to Alcohol

Alcoholic beverages have been a social engagement juggernaut for decades. Is there a market for cannabis-infused beverages? Can anything dethrone alcohol as one of the most popular adult beverages on the market? Ask a pair of Stanford graduates. The co-founders of Cann, a cannabis-beverage startup company, wanted to create a handover-free alternative to beer. They call it a “social tonic.” In nearly four years, the pair are on track to rake in close to $36 million in annual sales and have one of the top-selling cannabis beverage brands in the United States.

The company’s co-founders say they are well-positioned to offer young people and sober, curious individuals a social beverage option that tastes great and offers people a bit of a buzz without the ill health effects associated with alcohol.

Other cannabis companies are also attempting to get in on the cannabis-beverage buzz. Snoop Dogg’s Do It Fluid drinks went national appropriately enough on 4/20. The THC-infused drinks are available at more than 260 alcohol retailers across the U.S. CBD-only versions of the products can even be found on the shelves of Texas liquor stores, a state without recreational cannabis laws on the books.

Cannabis-infused beverages tend to hit a little differently than, say, edibles. Small water-soluble molecules are more easily absorbed into the body, meaning an infused beverage can deliver the effects of THC or CBD to the brain more quickly than traditional edibles, which can take one to two hours to deliver maximum psychoactive results. Canned cannabis cocktails not only deliver a faster buzz, but they are also much more socially acceptable than smoking or vaping marijuana. Many products on the market today also taste great and have minimized the “skunky” bong water flavor and maximized rich floral and citrus notes. The results? You get classical cocktail vibes without a morning-after hangover.

Barriers to the Cannabis-Infused Beverage Market

There are still a few barriers to a significant breakthrough in the cannabis-infused beverage market. For one, cannabis is only available recreationally in 24 states. That limits the reach of socially acceptable cannabis-infused beverages. Some companies are circumventing the problem by offering CBD beverages produced from hemp plants. Hemp was legalized thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, although some legislators want to roll back legalized hemp cultivation.

Additionally, we have decades of research available on the ill-health effects of alcohol. Cannabis-infused beverages are new, and there is currently little scientific data on the health benefits or drawbacks of these products. There are also concerns surrounding the overconsumption of THC when drinking cannabis-infused beverages. Since alcohol has been around so long, most people know what a “standard drink” is and how alcohol affects them when they drink a beer compared to taking shots. Without consistent labeling or standard product potency guidelines, it may be easy for individuals to ingest more THC than they intend through cannabis-infused beverages, causing adverse side effects and significant impairment.

Beer sales have fallen to the lowest level in a generation. That may seem like a drop in the keg for the billion-dollar beer industry. However, it may be a sign of an emerging trend that means the slow downfall of traditional alcoholic beverages and the rise in popularity of cannabis-infused beverages as a socially acceptable alternative.

Find more cannabis-related content at Cannabutter Digest! We have all the newsrecipes, and product reviews you can use to expand your horizons.


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