Do pot smokers drink less wine? I don’t. But am I your average cannabis consumer?

Above: cannabis grown on a private biodynamic farm in Sonoma, California. I spent the day yesterday in Sonoma county touring some of the damage from the wildfires.

Major-league wine blogger, marketer, and lobbyist Tom Wark is worried.

He’s concerned that legal recreational cannabis, which goes into effect in California in January 2018, will eclipse the sales of wine.

Earlier this week, he wrote that “cannabis is bad for wine.” He quotes a new and widely reported study whose authors claim that “alcoholic beverage sales fell by 15 percent following the introduction of medical marijuana laws in a number of states.”

And just today on his blog, he included “Cannabis and Wine” as one of the top 10 “wine stories” of 2017 (leave it to Tom, a blogger and writer I admire greatly, to nail it when it comes to listicles).

“Some [in the trade] like myself,” he wrote, “have been looking closely at the degree to which cannabis will cannibalize sales from the wine industry.” (Great parononmasia!)

Save for linguistics (a sine qua non tool in any self-respecting philologist’s gearbox), I’m not well versed in hard sciences like psephology. I can’t counter the results of studies like this one, which came to my attention via Tom’s blog (which I highly recommend to you btw, one of the best wine blogs out there).

But I can speak from personal experience. Like many in the industry (see this article by Eric Asimov for the New York Times), I don’t see cannabis as a threat to wine sales or consumption because pot smoking is already pervasive among grape growers, winemakers, and wine consumers. And it’s been that way for decades.

The fact that recreational cannabis will soon be available for retail purchase won’t change the robust cannabis culture that already exists across the United States — most vibrantly in California, where I grew up and where pot and wine are woven into the fabric of everyday consumption since the 1970s when I was a kid.

I’ve got news for white bread wine lovers: Americans love pot, they have for generations, and even though some Americans still associate it with sinfulness (like Tom, who calls it a “sin industry”), pot culture is an all-American tradition — from San Diego to Austin, from Portland to New York City, from Seattle to Boca Raton. The fact that it’s now becoming part of the mainstream business community doesn’t really change much in the way that I or hundreds of my colleagues and peers will consume cannabis (after all, you can’t write business without writing sin).

I’ll never forget when, in 2010, then Governor Rick Perry said: “if you don’t like medical marijuana and gay marriage, don’t move to California.”

I’ve got news for you, Rick. It’s not just coming to a town near you soon. It’s already there…

Check out Tom’s blog. It’s a daily read for me and one of the best wine blogs out there.

3 thoughts on “Do pot smokers drink less wine? I don’t. But am I your average cannabis consumer?

  1. You are very kind to me, Jeremy.

    Now, that off my chest. Here’s how I see it. First, when I say “sin” industry, I’m merely talking about those industries that are directly related to pure, hedonistic, pleasure seeking: Sex, alcohol, drugs. Not food, as that also is all about sustenance.

    I think people underestimate the number of people who don’t do something because it is illegal and whose minds on the matter are changed once something becomes legal. I don’t think there can be any question at all that the number of people dabbling or committing to cannabis will increase significantly with its legalization. I take this as gospel.

    The question is then this: To what degree will current and NEW cannabis imbibers choose to replace some of their alcohol consumption with pot consumption? I think many will. In particular I think those who tend to use alcohol to relax as oppose to reflect with wine are most likely to be doing the replacing. Furthermore, I think the number of those who relax with wine is a pretty darn big group.

    We know from the study you and I cited that alcohol sales drop or don’t increase with the average in states where medical marijuana is legal. What happens when it’s actually legal and the stigma is largely removed and when those who never smoked the stuff see more and more of their friends smoking and eating the stuff.

    I think there can’t be any question that wine sales will be impacted negatively.

    You’re a good man, Jeremy Parzen.

    • Hello Tom,
      I live in Massachusetts, a recreational cannabis state.
      It’s not a zero-sum game, with cannabis VS alcohol. There are oenophiles who never touch the herb, and there are a (very small I would estimate) number of cannabists who never touch alcohol, but the tokers I know do not forsake wine & spirits. They are related yet different kinds of experiences, more like jam band music and jazz. The heightened sensual experiences of cannabis can have one effect on wine consumption — the viper (1920s term) can have a better appreciation of really good wine (and art, and music, etc.) And the true hedonists will fill another bowl AND pour another glass. My neighborhood packie (MA term) and the nearby NH state liquor stores do not seem to be hurting.
      Cheers!
      Scott

      • Scott,
        IF I wasn’t clear in my comment, I don’t believe it plays out in a zero sum game. While some alcohol consumers WILL give up most or all alcohol consumption in favor of cannabis, it seems highly likely that the increase in cannabis use that comes with legalization will reduce alcohol use. The question is how much.

        Not to be repetitive, but it seems so obvious to me that with legalization comes increased use.

        Tom…

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