Beer, Wine

Cannabis and alcohol – what’s coming?

This fall, recreational cannabis will become legal in Canada (medical cannabis has been legal since 2001). When I first learned about recreational cannabis becoming legal I thought of all the potheads I’ve known over the years and how happy they’ll be to bring their bongs out from the backs of their closets. Finally they can stop hiding their habit!

As I learned more about legalization I realized that there are way more people interested in it than I originally thought. From edibles to topicals to cannabis for wellness and stress relief, recreational cannabis has the potential to disrupt a bunch of industries – including beer and wine.

Just the beginning

The current state of impending legalization includes flower (which you smoke) and oil (which you ingest).

But there are so many other uses of the plant than just these two ways. There are two compounds in cannabis that people are interested in: THC, which is the part that gets you high, and CBD, which is the part that reduces stress and anxiety. The more we can isolate one or the other, the more options there become for uses of the cannabis plant.

For example, lots of people are eagerly awaiting the introduction of edibles, which is set to happen later, once the initial legalization has happened. And many others are interested in seeing what sorts of topical uses can be found – lotions, aromatherapy, you name it! There’s a whole wellness sub-industry just waiting to flourish.

And that’s to say nothing of the companies getting in on the ground level with cannabis products aimed at women. Pretty quickly I think we’ll start to see lots of different market angles and experimentation as the cannabis industry figures itself out.

Cannabis, the interloper

Statistics Canada estimated that Canadians aged 15 to 64 spent $5.7 billion on cannabis in 2017, about 90% of which for recreational use. It’s not hard to imagine that this will increase once it becomes legal in October.

Here’s how it compares to other products:

Cannabis – number 3 with a bullet

The CIBC estimates that the cannabis industry could grow to $6 billion in retail sales by 2020. Seeing as how it’s almost at that level, it’s a pretty believable estimate.

Breweries In US states where cannabis is already legal have already seen their sales fall, which has spurred some wineries and breweries to consider making cannabis-infused beverages.

All eyes on Canada

Canada is only the second country in the world to legalize cannabis (Uruguay was the first), and while some states in the US are starting that trend, many countries and business publications are looking to Canada to see how this process will all work out.

There are so many questions at this point:

  • How will legal cannabis affect the black market?
  • How will this new industry take shape?
  • How will the government ensure that it is consumed safely? (it’s still a drug, after all)
  • How will it affect already-established industries (like beer and wine)?

Think about how cannabis could change things in your own life. Once cannabis is legal, when you come home from a long day at work, or on the Friday of a particularly stressful week, will you open a bottle of wine or vape a bit of something else?

Cannabis vs alcohol

I think that we’ll see people opt for pot in some form instead of a glass of wine to relax after a long day.  But I also think that there are lots of people out there (myself included) who will continue to buy and consume wine and beer regardless of the state of legalization of recreational cannabis. There are lots of us out there who enjoy wine and beer for reasons that don’t include how it gets you drunk.

I think sales will dip a bit in the first year or two as people experiment and take advantage of the new system and as the system itself goes through its own growing pains. There will be lots on offer over the next few years. If I were a wine or beer brand I’d be keeping my eyes peeled for changes and opportunities over the next little while.

If nothing else, legal cannabis will push wine and beer brands to crystalize what they offer, what makes them unique and worthy of our money, which is what any competitive environment does. I think there will be a lot of opportunity for brands to really carve out a space for themselves in the new environment.

Ultimately, time will tell how this is all going to go down. I don’t know about you, but I’m interested to see how it all shakes out.


What do you think? Will you try cannabis once it becomes legal?


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