Do Millennials Prefer Weed to Alcohol?
Weed: From Boomers to Bust
The times, they are a-changin’. That’s what Bob Dylan said many years ago in a song lauding the explosion of music, culture, and heightened consciousness of the era. It was the sixties, a time where the Baby Boomers were out to show that they weren’t the squares that their forebears were seeking to open new vistas through exotic music, psychedelics, and pot smoking. Lots of it.
Of course, the attitude changed as the Boomers started to age. Their renaissance of youthful exuberance gave way to a sort of aging puritanism. They started forming anti-drug initiatives in the 1980s, using public service announcements to tell the kids – the future Millennials – to just “say no to drugs”, but that wasn’t enough. These kids were bombarded with fear-mongering PSAs and sponsor spots from figures like Peewee Herman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But one drug – alcohol – not only remained legal, but enjoyed endorsements from magazines, TV spots, and celebrities.
The Bum-Rush of the Information Age
Fast forward to the early 2000s. The internet was quickly becoming an unstoppable worldwide force of free information, and the most hip to it were the selfsame Millennials, now in their teens. They went from the restrictions of regulated network television and parents and teachers to a vast world of knowledge that broke open their prejudices and showed them that all wasn’t as it seemed. As the world started to communicate with each other, people whose perspectives would have had no way of being known otherwise were suddenly sharing information, and the Millennials were quickly finding out that they were being lied to.
The End of the Anti-Weed Taboo
This led to a backlash against these anti-drug crusaders when Millennials found out that smoking weed wasn’t going to cause infertility or addiction or necessary psychosis, and in fact, the euphoria was pleasant and conducive to better social demeanor. Weed smoking went from a basement-and-woods activity that carried serious social implications to basically second nature, frequently smoked at rock and rap concerts, in alleyways, in parks, and on balconies and in backyards. The devil’s grass wasn’t so evil after all.
The crucial fact remains: do Millennials prefer weed over its longtime corporate-backed competitor alcohol? The answer is a resounding “yes!” Average alcohol use has fallen among the student-to-young adult populace since 1980, when 6.5 of the cohort reported frequent alcohol use, dropping to 4.3 percent by 2016. And in 2017 alone, that number fell by nearly half, to 2.2 percent.
There are a couple of reasons for this. One, mentioned before, was a new “heightened consciousness” brought about by the internet. Propaganda could no longer be used to assuage the young populace who knew better. And as use grew, Millennials soon found that, contrary to all the dangers they were warned about, cannabis use is highly social, is non-habit forming, and carries very few toxic effects (although you could be considered a social liability if you were a loitering stoner).
Compare that to alcohol, for which poisoning is highly possible, and potential for injury and fatality are much higher through avenues like car accidents and bar fights. Alcohol is also a frequently abused substance for those with socioeconomic and mental health problems. Although the same case could be made for the lonely stoner in the basement on his PC, the reality is that cannabis is not physically addictive, and unlike alcohol, can be used judiciously to treat pain, glaucoma, and to ease the effects of radiation for cancer.
The Bottom Line
So all the stars lined up to usher in this new sensibility to weed smoking among the Millennial population who, as they age, don’t seem to want to give up the green herb as easily as their forebears, and why should they? Marijuana legalization is on the rise in nearly all industrialized nations thanks to nonconformity of the Millennial generation, and with reasonable cautionary measures, everyone stands to benefit.
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