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Happy Danksgiving from Jackie Bryant
The coolest cannabis writer around, say I
I only know Jackie Bryant through her excellent work—she's the managing editor at San Diego Magazine, a cannabis aficionado, and the author of the Cannabitch newsletter—and our budding Twitter friendship, but since the platform is dying, I decided to shoot my shot. Yes, I took it to the DMs and asked if she would be open to speaking with me about cannabis, drinks, her life—whatever. She immediately and affirmatively responded, adding that “honestly, we have a lot in common just, like, thought-wise and otherwise.” Let this be a lesson to us all to take our shots! Please find an edited and condensed version of our conversation below.
But first, as Thanksgiving—or Danksgiving, as Bryant wrote about in a New York Times piece, in print today—is nigh, I asked her to recommend some THC-infused beverages. While they’re not a regular part of Bryant’s consumption routine, she does have some favorites.
Lagunitas Hi-Fi Sessions: "The thing that I hate about a lot of weed drinks is they are so sweet. It's actually my criticism with a lot of edibles. How are you supposed to be diabetic and eat edibles or consume these drinks? Good luck, honestly. Anyway, that Lagunitas hop drink, I absolutely love that."
Wunder Sessions: "These drinks are sugary, but the flavors are dialed in, and I like carbonated drinks. I regularly order alcohol-free cocktails, mocktails, whatever the kids are calling them these days, and I feel like Wunder has that vibe. I especially like the lemon-ginger."
Kikoko Tranquili-Tea: "They're lovely. A tea doesn't make me think of an alcohol replacement. Tea feels like what a weed does: It settles you into the couch, right? That might just be my perception, but I really love these."
In your Times piece, you note that there was no alcohol at dinner: "Many marijuana-centered events avoid alcohol for various reasons, including the belief that the cannabis high is more benign." Is there truth to that belief? And what other reasons might there be?
I personally believe that is true. I'm willing to accept that there are negative health outcomes for using cannabis that a lot of advocates probably wouldn't agree with. We haven't been able to do many studies, but I'm certainly open to the fact that cannabis may not be as healthy, in some ways, as a lot of people claim it is. That being said, behaviorally, I think there's almost no comparison. The way that alcohol and THC manifest in my own body and my own behavior are completely different, and I think that's fairly universal. Stereotypes are what they are for a reason, and the stereotypes of being drunk versus being super stoned on the couch...that tracks.
A good anecdote is that the joke among industry people at weed industry parties—there are even more of them now that it's legal—is that you can only really have one for two hours, and it better start at 5:30 and end at 7:30 because after a while, it gets fucking weird. For the most part, people are going to retreat into themselves after a while. I have a two-hour time limit at weed parties. After that, I'm like, "I just want to go home. I don't want to be out with all you people, actually."
This brings to mind the other quote that grabbed me: "Guests ate, smoked, snapped content for eventual reels, popped dried weed buds off the flower arrangements to smoke and giggled a lot." This paints such a different picture than does the one of your drunken uncle getting belligerent, doesn't it?
I was a happy drunk myself, actually. My problems with drinking were around how alcohol made me feel. But, to your earlier point, I have absolutely been to parties where alcohol is not allowed. For the public ones, it's a licensing thing: You can't have a legal weed party and a legal alcohol party in the same place. But I've been to private ones where the hosts are like, "Just don't even bring booze. It won't be served." Just scroll through Twitter and look at weed people and their conversations; they're always denigrating alcohol. I don't believe in drug exceptionalism for the most part, but there's a lot of that in cannabis, and it's kind of the cornerstone of the activist movement. For a long time, their whole thing has been like, "It's not heroin, it's not meth, and it's also not alcohol. Everyone's really cool with alcohol and it's so much more destructive. This is more benign," to use the word in the story. I don't 100% subscribe to that. I personally think cannabis is better for me, but I would stop short at saying that that's an absolute truth.
What are some of the other reasons why some weed people are anti-alcohol?
I think a lot of people feel slighted by cannabis prohibition. Especially in the face of such alcohol acceptance and promotion in our society, they feel judged and stigmatized, because they are, let's be honest. If you go through the comments on my New York Times piece, you'll see a lot of, "Oh, this is disgusting. They can't connect without substances. Are they even friends or are they just trying to get super stoned together? This is the downfall of America." But I bet you guys are all having wine at Thanksgiving!
I bet you're having a bottle!
It's so funny because—and you spoke to this earlier—my experience using cannabis is so different from my experience using alcohol. Certainly, I get too stoned and I'll just pass out, but it's not wild at all. It's very chill. So I get surprised when confronted with comments like that. I don't know what they think weed does to people. Maybe they just think, "That's a drug and alcohol isn't.” I think it's the D word.
Right. And, of course, alcohol is a drug. Going back to the party featured in the piece, I noted that it seemed inclusive in the sense that the weed is there if you want it—you can dose your dish with the infused butter on the table—and don't have it if you don't want to. I started wondering, what if there were a bottle of tequila on the table and everybody had the same base drink that was nonalcoholic and you could dose it with a couple ounces of booze if you want to?
But that never happens that way, right? It totally could, but we approach it differently. For whatever reason—maybe because of its illegality, most people have been honing that practice in the shadows or only with trusted people—the cannabis community is used to choosing your own adventure. There's probably a subset of hardcore dab bros who would goad you into consuming a lot of weed, but for the most part, I've never felt pressured to do anything.
So it seems that culture was built from the ground up in a way that allows for choice, whereas with alcohol, it's taking some work to shift perspectives in that way. I mean, my whole mission has been, not to demonize alcohol, but simply to normalize alcohol-free drinking in certain contexts.
I would say that crowd in the piece, in particular, and probably a lot of the people I know, their habits are geared towards heavy consumption. If you were a newbie there, you may have felt a little out of your league, but you would never have been pressured to do anything you didn’t want to. We've all had highs that are not fun and no experienced cannabis consumer would wish that on somebody else. So, there’s a high degree of respect for choose your own adventure there, for sure, but at the same time in those circles, there is also a tendency for very high consumption.
You wrote about changing your relationship to alcohol a few years ago. Can you tell me more about that?
Lockdown gave me the opportunity. I had been considering it for so long, but I just didn't really know how to get off the train.
I wrote about wine and spirits for many years and then I got divorced in March 2018, exactly two years before the pandemic. That whole two years I was partying hard, out every night and drinking more than I had during my marriage. It was kind of a second adolescence almost; I was binge-drinking, but it was different from when I was younger. The pandemic hit when I was 34, and your body's just not the same: My hangovers were worse; I looked awful, all bloated and red-faced; I was sucking at work, missing deadlines; I was just a total disaster. It was because of the drinking, but also because I didn't give a shit about anything. I was in this total reckless phase of my life. And I knew I was aging out of all of it. So, I was honestly and selfishly stoked for the opportunity that the pandemic gave me to get the fuck out of that lifestyle. And then, as the pandemic wore on, I was like, "I think this is my off-ramp for good."
Now, I'm 36, about to turn 37, and it's shocking to look back on that time. Not that I'm ever the picture of health or super into taking care of myself, truthfully, but I can't believe that I let myself go that far. There's no way I could do that again.
The topic of this particular newsletter is, as you know, drinks. What are your thoughts on the longevity and potential for drinks in the cannabis market?
A lot of weed people are heavy consumers, but they are not heavy weed beverage consumers. There's a subculture within the subculture that’s edibles-heavy, but... It's hard to explain and I think it's probably just habit more than anything else, like an association in the brain that weed feels this way and you do this to get that way, but drinking something isn't a part of that. And I think the industry knows that. So the lofty projections about the future of beverage is predicated on bringing new users into the fold and attracting them via a medium that they're already comfortable with. It's being marketed as an alcohol replacement, and I personally think that's insane. It's not the same high! A 10 milligram-drink? Again, I'm going home. Whereas, if I had three beers, I'm going out to the bar.
But a lot of these low-dose beverages are around 2.5 or 5 milligrams.
Totally. And that depends on the state, too, but they don't sell. Any state that sells beverages and edibles, the category that sells is typically 10 milligrams and up, because honestly the only people really buying these products in any bulk are heavy weed people. Non-frequent consumers will buy the lower-dose stuff, but they never did and never will consume with the frequency that the big potheads do. The potheads are the ones driving the market and driving higher doses.
I do know people in the weed world who say emphatically that it's nice to have a drink in their hands, to be out and be social with a substance they agree with, but they've all admitted to me that there's a limit. My good friend struggles with alcohol use disorder and she says, "It helps me be social and cannabis is something that I'm comfortable with," but she admits that "it's just not the same high." So, it's a replacement and a lubricant to a point, but there is an inflection point. And the numbers bear that out.
I'm curious why industry projections said it was poised to be a huge market, then?
I have some thoughts! I think a lot of people making these projections and controlling corporate weed are not people who use weed! They are getting in on a new consumer packaged good. They're getting in on a replacement for alcohol. That's why Pabst Blue Ribbon now has weed drinks, for example. Alcohol has already moved in: Constellation already owns things. Johnson Brothers, the eighth biggest alcohol distributor in the world, owns a distribution company for weed in California right now, legal. I liken it to the Canadian companies laying in wait for American alcohol prohibition to end and then Seagram’s and all of those just swooped in and took over. That's what's going to happen with weed when it finally gets federally legal. The alcohol industry is looking for the next big thing because they can feel that their products are falling out of favor, but at the same time, there's a misjudgment. People literally don't get that weed and alcohol are apples and oranges. They just don't really produce the same effects for most people. I do think there's a place for it, but I don't think it's as big as the industry thinks it's going to be. Part of that is dependent on whether or not they can convert new users.
Beverage is a familiar format, so those who may have been intimidated by going to a dispensary and talking to a budtender can get something that's already dosed.
That's a big thing. And, of course, there are those who don't want to smoke. One of the fast-growing segments of cannabis consumers are women above 50 or 55, and you can use it for various things like menopause and sleep, but I think there's a ceiling. Weed is a sleepy ass drug! I don't know if a lot of people like to feel sleepy or even have the patience to work with that feeling. It is so sedative, and I feel like that's inherently hard to overcome. I'm extremely willing to admit that I am just an old-school stoner who is a little bit stuck in my ways, but I don't know. It's not the same.
Your boyfriend, who doesn't smoke, likes cannabis drinks. What draws him to them?
Well, he doesn't smoke, and he's a low-dose dude, but I think he also likes being able to sip it, which is not very weedy behavior. Very little about cannabis consumption is incremental. Dabbing, even smoking, it's right to the face. You feel it instantly. Drinking is incremental throughout the night, and so I think for him, he likes that sessionability. He likes that ability to sip, and have that onset be very metered over time. That's something I can't relate to. When I have a cannabis drink in my hand, I feel the need to drink it immediately, because I just think in doses; if the drinks is 10 milligrams, I drink it all, because I want that exact feeling that I know 10 milligrams produces. He does not feel that way at all.
Clearly there are more of him out there (like me!). I guess time will tell just how many.
Yeah. Truthfully, I've seen drinks really hit with people who don't smoke.