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Bong and a Bock? California Craft Beer Industry Embraces Cannabis

I live in Portland, so I am lucky in a lot of ways. I have a cannabis dispensary just around the block, and in typical Portland fashion, there’s a small, local brewpub just across the street from the dispensary with trivia on Monday nights. I have access to have good, local beer anytime I want, pretty much anywhere I am in the city.

Cannabis is safer than alcohol, and it’s a good point to remind people. I think it’s great that people are using cannabis as substitute for harder drugs like alcohol or opioids. But that doesn’t mean good beer isn’t delicious, or that we have to give up responsible consumption. The brewpub is still chugging along. The neighbors still come in to watch sports or play a game. It’s just that now they might swing by Papa Buds for an easy pre-roll on the way home.

There has been a lot of hullabaloo over the past several years about what effect legalization will have on the alcohol industry. Primarily, the enthusiasm of recent converts to cannabis medicine who see the plant as a substitute and healer of potentially-lethal addictions, promote the idea that there will be a decrease in drinking and that’s a good thing. Others in the restaurant and hotel business have worried about their bottom line being effected by such substitution.

Have alcohol sales decreased in states with legal marijuana? In a word, yes.

But that doesn’t seem to bother the craft beer industry in California. Online publication BrewBound recently polled several beer industry professionals in California regarding their opinions on the newly-legal cannabis industry in the Golden State. Here are a few of their responses:

Tom McCormick, Executive Director, California Craft Brewers Association: “It hasn’t been hard to get cannabis in California, and pretty much anybody who wants to smoke cannabis has been able to get cannabis and been able to get it very easily on the black market. I think maybe over time there will be a gradual increase in the number of people who become regular or semi-regular users of cannabis, now that it’s no longer on the black market. But for the demographics who are the primary beer drinkers and especially for the demographics who are the primary craft beer drinkers, I think they’ve already had access to cannabis, so there won’t be a dramatic increase in the number of craft beer drinkers who are now using cannabis or using cannabis more.”

Jacob McKean, Founder and CEO, Modern Times Beer: “If anyone can speak to the foolishness of prohibition, it’s brewers, so I welcome the end of cannabis prohibition for a whole host of reasons. I just hope the federal government follows suit sooner rather than later, so that craft beverage companies can capitalize on new opportunities created by legalization.”

Lynne Weaver, Founder, Three Weavers Brewing: “I just really don’t think it’s going to be that huge of an impact. I think those who are users are already users and will continue to use, and those who are not most likely aren’t going to be interested anyway, whether it is legalized or not. I just don’t see it being a massive, massive impact. If you look at Colorado or even Washington, a lot of our friends were like there were some [effects], but nothing drastic. And the tax associated with marijuana is so high that it’s almost cost prohibitive.”

Well. That last sentence kind of hurt, but I’m not disagreeing. For me, these statements confirm what I already have learned in working the alcohol industry in the past – people are already using cannabis, and there’s no reason to be afraid.

Learn what California (and other) professionals are thinking on the ground and in person next month at the International Cannabis Business Conference, happening February 1st & 2nd in San Francisco, California, at the Hyatt Embarcadero. Get your tickets before prices go up!

cannabis, craft beer, Jacob McKean, Lynne Weaver, Tom McCormick