It is difficult to imagine a time when marijuana will prevail over alcoholic beverages. Not that it shouldn’t, it’s just that we’ve been brainwashed all of these years — for decades really — to think in terms that marijuana is an illegal drug, and booze, well, that is just a normal part of American culture. Even now that several states have legalized the leaf for recreational use, it is difficult for some people in those jurisdictions to fully embrace the idea that weed isn’t going to get them jammed up in the criminal justice system somehow. And for the outsider looking in, those still confined to the laws of prohibition, it is even harder to open up to the possibility that there could come a day when this plant, one that has been banned in this country for more than 80 years, will be as widely accepted as beer, wine and liquor, and eventually just become a part of the overall scene and not anything worth a fuss. That day may seem grossly out of reach to those cannabis advocates who have been locked inside this battle to legalize, expunge and normalize, but it is the younger generations — starting with Generation Z — that will lead this plant into mainstream appeal.
The Baby Boomers and Generation Xers were brought up in a time when marijuana was frowned upon by the bulk of civil society. These were the days when getting caught with a little pot meant that a person might get roughed up by police and dragged to jail. But more than that, marijuana had such negative connotations, primarily due to the open wounds left over from 1930s reefer madness, that everyone from those who dabbled in the doobie to full-blown regular users was considered scum, burnouts and just wastes of space that would never go on to become productive members of the community.
But fast forward to the present day, and marijuana users do not carry the same cross. Everyone is high at work and fast food restaurants are actually creating menu options for pot consumers. So, thanks to those who came before them, Generation Z, those people born between 1995 and 2015, do not remember a time when marijuana wasn’t legal in some form or fashion in parts of the country. Therefore, these kids are growing up in an age when the marijuana discussion is mostly positive.
This is where the brainwashing stops.
From this point forward, all of the people coming up in the United States will exist in an environment where marijuana is no longer bound by certain stigmas. The boulder has already been rolled uphill and pushed over the edge. Some of Generation Z, those at least 21 years old, is already out there buying pot legally, but with each passing year more of them will enter the market. This is the one aspect of marijuana maturity that presents the best opportunity for the cannabis industry: the fact that all of the children growing up right now are not hindered by the prohibition gobbledygook of the past several decades. And these kids, the cannabis consumers of tomorrow, are also living in a time when alcohol is losing steam as part of the coming of age ritual.
At this very moment, some alcohol companies are freaking out. Hell has apparently frozen over, as many younger consumers have decided that, rather than linger in the same drunken oblivion as their parents, they are not as interested in getting hammered, hungover, and hung out to dry on the wings of a ghastly beast known as cirrhosis of the liver. It is one of the reasons that major alcohol slingers are now introducing more non-alcoholic beverages into the market. What was once a slice held down by Anheuser-Busch’s O’Doul’s beer brand has now become one where large companies to smaller craft brews are jumping in. And some of these lush merchants have even dipped into the marijuana game — all for a fighting chance at, not only survival but to become a viable part of the next phase of the inebriation culture. Generation Z is where the change really begins, but it will likely be the next generation that takes the cannabis culture over the top and sets it on course for what it is to become. Some of us may never live to see the day when weed actually attains the same carefree proficiency as alcohol, but that day will arrive.
“It’s becoming much more palatable,” Bethany Gomez, managing director of Brightfield Group, a cannabis research firm, told Bloomberg. “It’s not crazy to think the usage rate could eventually be similar to alcohol.”
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