Do Millennials Prefer Pot to Beer?

Published July 31, 2017, LifeZette.com

By Christine King

Beer — that summer staple at barbecues, family reunions, and county fairs — is very nearly as American as apple pie and ice cream. The rise of craft breweries from 2012 to 2016 was also significant and created a tasty menu of options for both regular beer drinkers and those new to the brew experience. But change is afoot.

A significant shift is occurring this year in the beer industry. While the Brewers Association (BA) reported a sales increase of 13 percent in 2015 and 18 percent in both 2014 and 2013, in 2017 there was a mere 6 percent increase; the BA’s chief economist, Bart Watson, said, “The era of 18 percent growth rate is probably over,” as Fortune magazine noted in a March 2017 story.

In a nutshell, sales of recreational marijuana and medical marijuana are beginning to affect the beer market. When OutCo, a Southern California cannabis production company, partnered with Monocle Research, a brand research outlet, to study the impact of weed on the alcohol industry, one of its reports revealed that 51 percent of millennials preferred marijuana to drinking alcohol. The young people interviewed for the study said the shift in choice stemmed from a “perception of safety, cost, and health.”

So the millennials surveyed believed smoking pot was preferable to having an alcohol hangover — and felt it was safer and less expensive.

The use of the word “safer” in these findings is terrifying. Individuals impaired by any drug, including marijuana, are considered by law to be “under the influence” — which doesn’t protect them from a DUI. There may be a misunderstanding or a wrongful dissemination of information to millennials — all in the name of more pot sales? — about the definition and consequences of being impaired. Or there may be a willful disbelief about pot’s dangers.

Marijuana is used by many to “chill out,” and by medical patients, to reduce pain; yet the effects of the drug trigger slower reaction times, causing users to be at a higher risk of accidents. Clear information to millennials about the consequences of a DUI may help their futures look less disastrous. In the state of Colorado, the amount of THC in a person’s bloodstream while operating a motor vehicle needs to be equal to or less than 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood.

There’s been a recent discussion about citing people using cell phones while driving for being “under the influence.” The agent of distraction doesn’t matter. An unfocused driver “impaired” as a result of alcohol, drugs, or even cell phones is considered by law enforcement to be “under the influence.”

Large beer companies such as Coors, Corona, and Samuel Adams recently took a hit in the stock market because millennials are “shifting away from beer,” according to a Goldman Sachs report. These declines coincidentally corresponded with predictions of gains in cannabis stocks.

Investment bank Cowen and Company released a report recently about the current state and future growth of the marijuana industry. Its findings indicate that within the next 10 years, the cannabis industry will reach $50 billion in sales.

Investopedia, the world’s leading source of financial content on the web, also reports pot stocks are now on the mainstream market. In its opinion, “Millennials prefer weed. Take your investments out of beer and into cannabis: The numbers don’t lie.”

As the use of, and the investment in, pot continue to rise, education, health and safety issues must be equally addressed. There are now more than 80 million millennials, and they’ve already greatly contributed to the growth of social media. They’ve led the way in the promotion of same-sex marriage, and they’ve helped shape the retail market. They bear culpability in the shift of significantly increased marijuana use — and the responsibility of educating users, including themselves, about the life-changing risks they’re undertaking.