As the building inspector walked through my apartment yesterday, checking for signs of water damage after our roof leaked from the recent heavy rains, she noticed a smattering of open alcohol bottles across the living room.
“Do you work in the liquor industry?” she asked, shining a flashlight into an open crack in the ceiling.
“I do,” I replied.
“I can really only drink vodka,” she continued; “It gets me where I want to go without all the sugar.”
I smiled and agreed. Nothing makes me happier than listening to everyday people talk about their alcohol preferences in terms of practicality and feel, rather than flavor. It’s so refreshing and I relish the moment every time it occurs organically. One of the most stupefying aspects of working in wine and spirits retail is the exposure to flavor appreciation culture, or the people who drink alcohol solely to savor the complexity, not to get a buzz. Why not just drink tea? Or coffee? Or juice then? It’s such horseshit that I feel dumb just writing about it now, but nevertheless it’s part of the pageantry that surrounds the genre, no different than the people who try to impress you by claiming they don’t watch TV.
I can’t ever imagine someone saying: “I smoke weed because of the complexity of flavor, not to get high.” But then again, I’ve never worked in the cannabis industry. I am, however, a frequent cannabis customer and I’m absolutely keeping an eye on all of the investments, developments, and happenings that occur on a weekly basis within that market. If you haven’t been paying attention, huge drinks companies like Constellation—the owner of High West and Casa Noble Tequila—are putting big bucks into cannabis, betting large on the future intoxication habits of young consumers. I think it’s a very smart investment. The number one reason I’m so confident stems from how cannabis is marketed and the manner in which consumer expectations extend from that marketing. As exhibit A, I give you Dosist; my preferred brand of marijuana.
Dosist vape pens are not branded with historical accounts of hidden weed plantations, or romantic stories of pirates who smoked huge joints while pillaging and plundering the Caribbean (although I admittedly would love it if someone did that). There’s no push for authenticity here based on antiquity. They have nothing to prove to anyone about their product, other than it works. It’s about feeling good and making sure you have the right product to do so. Hence, why their vape pens are aptly named: Bliss, Sleep, Calm, and Relief. Now, this may seem crazy, but hear me out: when I smoke the Dosist Calm pen, I feel calm. When I smoke the Dosist Relief pen after a long day on my feet, I feel relief. When I smoke the Bliss pen on the weekend, I feel happy. And when I smoke the Sleep pen before bed, it knocks me the FUCK out. What a concept! To market a narcotic by how it makes you feel rather than prestige, authenticity, or flavor.
I know four people who have left the alcohol industry to do commercial marketing in the cannabis world, and I absolutely LOVE catching up with them from time to time to hear about their experiences. Sure, they each have their growing pains, but again I’m confident there’s a serious career path there if you know what you’re doing. Dropping the pretense is step one. The number one reason I hear from young people as to why they don’t drink more wine is snobbery. The number one reason I hear from consumers as to why they don’t go out to drink fancy cocktails is snobbery. When I visit my budtender on Ventura Boulevard, however, I don’t experience even the slightest inkling of hauteur. That’s because no one in the cannabis industry is pretending like they don’t want to get high. It makes buying weed an inspirational purchase, rather than aspirational, and I think there’s a lot of potential revenue in that approach, especially when it comes to millennials who seem to have little interest in aspirational drinking.
An article posted today in The Spirits Business paints a picture of what we can expect moving forward:
Baby boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – are likely to be “more alcohol-exclusive,” while millennials prefer to swap between cannabis and alcohol, or just consume marijuana. Millennials make up 45% of “dualists” – people who consume both cannabis and alcohol – which the report notes is a “sobering statistic” for drinks firms that are “trying to capture long-term share of mind and wallet among this important demographic.
Or just listen to Tinashe for more insight. The future is definitely “two on.”