Ask a budtender: Are weed drinks actually good alcohol replacements?

January 12, 2022


Lorena Cupcake, voted “best budtender in Chicago,” has answered hundreds of questions from cannabis shoppers and patients during their time as a budtender. And now they’re turning that experience into a monthly advice column, Ask a budtender. Got a question for Cupcake? Submit your questions to

Dear Cupcake,

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to cut back on alcohol, starting with Dry January. While I usually smoke a little more, I’m curious about all the new cannabis drinks I’ve seen on the market.

Are weed drinks actually good alcohol replacements?

— Treetotaler

Dear Treetotaler,

This is a hot topic in the cannabis industry right now, with endless brands vying for a slice of the money normally spent at bars and liquor stores. Cann, a line of lightly-infused bubbly drinks, even challenged its followers to participate in a “playfully forgiving 30-day break from booze” dubbed “Cannuary.”

According to Cann’s CEO and Co-Founder Jake Bullock, “We all know that alcohol is one of the worst things that we do to our bodies, and yet, we keep doing it because alcohol delivers a social buzz. By substituting [alcohol] with a microdose of cannabis, drinks like Cann actually deliver a feeling — it’s light, uplifting, and makes you want to laugh hard and be yourself with people you care about. Cann lets us give up the booze without sacrificing the buzz.”

Vince Ning, Founder and Co-CEO of California-based wholesale distributor NABIS, offered a more measured perspective to The Broccoli Report, “There is a ton of hype, especially from (and for) investors. It makes sense that beverages will pick up; I think they will. But there are a lot of challenges for this category,” he told Lauren Yoshiko. “For one, people don’t have experience with drinking cannabis. It’s a new physical habit that may have to be established over the course of a generation. Beyond that, the cannabis supply chain is really not set up for it. Cannabis beverages are more expensive to distribute. There’s a lot of physical limitations on the operation side.”

There’s also the fact that THC and alcohol are vastly different intoxicants. Weed drinks aren’t particularly suited for the type of freewheeling, life-in-the-fast-lane bender pop stars sing songs about. If you swap them at a raucous drinking event, you might find that you’re getting sleepier and cozier as others get louder and sloppier. I’m in my thirties, so that doesn’t necessarily sound bad to me … but it’s worth being honest about.

Finding new ways to meet your needs

Like you, I’ve been reducing my mindless casual alcohol consumption. Over the past ten months of carefully tracking every glass of Chablis, I’ve cut out over three hundred drinks. For me, the key is finding what itch I’m scratching with alcohol, and finding an alternate way to satisfy that ken.

Sometimes, I want to wind back with an indulgent “cocktail” that will loosen me up, relieve stress and relax my body. Microdosed drinks that contain both CBD and THC are perfect. I’ve even made my own infused golden milk for potential anti-inflammatory effects.

Other times, I want to enjoy complex flavors that complement food without opening a bottle of wine. If I’m not feeling like a virgin Bloody Mary, I’ll usually reach for a bitter, herbal non-alcoholic aperitivo — adding a flavorless additive like ALT or Squeeze if I want to get high.

Honestly, sometimes I just want something that isn’t water. After trying every infused drink your dispensary has to offer, try allocating some of your former drinking budget to new juices, seltzers, or sodas.

You probably have different needs day-to-day, so listen to what your body and brain are telling you. At the same time, don’t be scared to sit with discomfort. Many cravings, while intense in the moment, disappear if you wait them out rather than giving in to them.

You’re not alone

While writing this column, I put out a call for folks who turned to cannabis to fulfill the needs they were previously meeting with alcohol. I wanted to learn more about the experiences of others, whether they were successful or unsuccessful.

Nate, who no longer drinks, credits “smoking more and drinking less” with learning to manage his ADHD. “It slows down the rate at which I’m processing shit so I can actually grab onto a thought and be more in tune with what’s going on in my head. In turn, this typically helps me focus better for longer and cut back on intrusive thoughts.”

Lenn (not their real name) also gave up drinking in favor of cannabis. “Weed really helps me to relax and decompress in a way I (delusionally) imagined alcohol would. I thought booze would help me write better, or think more internally when all it did was muddy my thoughts. Smoking sativa now has that effect for me — keeps my head clear, but also enables me to think beyond my immediate anxieties.”

Know when to stop

As an alcoholic, Jack relied on cannabis to curb his desire to drink. “After a few years of functionality,” he told me, “I withdrew from my life completely. I went to rehab in Chicago thinking I’d just deal with my depression, but they put me in an addiction program for my weed habit. The counselors helped me understand that I’d never developed the emotional coping skills I needed because staying stoned had worked out so well for me.”

While Jack notes that cannabis “doesn’t seem to affect the majority of people the way it did to me,” he’s met plenty of people with similar stories while attending 12-step meetings. “I still go to meetings for both alcoholics and potheads, and I’m mostly okay with how confused people are when I say I was and still am addicted to cannabis.”

If you’re looking for assistance stepping away from a drug or alcohol habit, organizations like SMART Recovery offer free mutual support meetings and resources to help you along your recovery journey.

Bottoms up

Cheers, Treetotaler, for taking the time to reevaluate your relationship with alcohol. You’re bound to discover some delicious infused drinks, and you might even create a lasting lifestyle page. According to the British Liver Trust, research conducted with over 800 Dry January participants showed they were still drinking less when August rolled around.

For some people, weed drinks can provide some of the positive effects of alcohol, while avoiding the negative ones. That being said, cannabis will never be exactly like alcohol — and I wouldn’t want it to be.

The post Ask a budtender: Are weed drinks actually good alcohol replacements? appeared first on Weedmaps News.

Lorena Cupcake, voted “best budtender in Chicago,” has answered hundreds of questions from cannabis shoppers and patients during their time as a budtender. And now they’re turning that experience into…
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