Not booze, but marijuana or mushrooms.
Gen Z, the meme-obsessed, gender-fluid generation that’s already changing everything from social media to shopping, is also changing how society unwinds.
According to a recent survey by New Frontier Data, a cannabis research organization, 69% aged 18 to 24 prefer marijuana to alcohol. Consumers between the ages of 44 and 44 have a similar attitude. However, the youngest generation is of special significance, as many members of Generation Z do not yet have a wage or purchasing power.
Given that they already have roughly $360 billion in disposable income, are just of legal age to spend it on alcohol or marijuana, and will undoubtedly influence their younger peers, its oldest members, up to age 24, may thus be a leading indicator.
Zoomers, sometimes known as “digital natives” because they can’t remember a world without social media, are growing up in a world where legal marijuana is widely used.
Amanda Reiman, New Frontier Data’s vice president of public policy research, said in an email exchange that:
Gen Z is the first generation to be of legal consumption age in an environment with widespread adult-use cannabis access,
The study, which included 4,170 current cannabis consumers and 1,250 nonconsumers, discovered that the taste for weed seemed to decrease with age, with only 44% of respondents aged 65 to 74 selecting weed over alcohol.
The consumer goods industry is catching on. Boston Beer Co., the manufacturer of Sam Adams beer, debuted a THC-infused drink this week, joining the Big Alcohol-vs.-Big Tobacco struggle for the younger generation. Cowen Inc., a financial services firm that studies the cannabis industry, said altering risk perceptions among 18-to-25-year-olds gives it a bullish perspective on multistate operators in the United States.
It cited statistics showing that between 2002 and 2008, that age group believed that smoking cannabis once or twice a week was riskier than drinking five drinks once or twice a week. Then, between 2008 and 2019, that perspective shifted, and cannabis became less and less dangerous.
The need for mind-altering events isn’t limited to marijuana. Another research organization, Brightfield Group, discovered that more than 10% of Gen Z individuals have taken psilocybin in the last six months, compared to 3.4% of the general population. Its 5,000-person survey focused on Gen Zers aged 21 to 23.
According to Brightfield, the top reasons for cannabis use were relaxation, sleep, emotional release, and fun. Many people are also turning their backs on alcohol, with “wanting to be healthier” being the most common reason for doing so.
Cannabis, on the other hand, has its own set of health problems.
The National Institutes of Health advises that frequent cannabis use has been linked to an increased risk of schizophrenia or other severe mental diseases in young brains, which are still in a vital growth phase until about age 25.
Adolescents who use cannabis are four to seven times more likely than adults to develop cannabis use disorder, which is described by factors such as an inability to stop using the drug, persistent urges, and social issues. According to research cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ranging from 10% to 30% of marijuana users may have a use disorder.
According to a 2020 NIH survey, frequent cannabis use among college students is on the rise. Furthermore, in 2020, 8% of college students will use it every day, up from 5% in 2015.
It’s too soon to tell how Generation Z’s preference for marijuana over alcohol will effect everything from Big Alcohol to public health and nightlife.
However, it’s evident that legalization of marijuana isn’t the sole factor driving the trend.
According to Bethany Gomez, managing director at Brightfield, Gen Z is “has reset a lot of focus away from bars and clubs and in favor of home events and gatherings, where cannabis is more easily procured and consumed.”