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  • Writer's pictureVik F.

Evolving Cannabis Regulation: A New Era for Beverage Consumption

The landscape of alcohol and cannabis consumption is undergoing significant changes. The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) is urging federal lawmakers to regulate cannabis by adopting the same system that governs alcohol. This recommendation follows a recent bipartisan amendment to the Farm Bill that could potentially ban intoxicating hemp products in the United States. WSWA believes that prohibition is not the answer and advocates for a regulatory approach instead.

Francis Creighton, president and CEO of WSWA, emphasizes the ineffectiveness of prohibition and suggests that Congress should focus on public safety and empower states to regulate cannabis sales. This proposed amendment seeks to redefine legal hemp, potentially removing intoxicating hemp products, including alcoholic hemp beverages, from the market. The WSWA supports the regulation of THC, regardless of its source, aligning with their 2021 proposal for cannabis regulations based on the alcohol supply chain model.

WSWA’s suggested framework includes several key components: federal permitting for cannabis producers, importers, testing facilities, and distributors; federal approval and regulation of cannabis products and labeling; efficient collection of federal excise taxes; and effective measures to ensure public safety. Dawson Hobbs, WSWA executive vice-president of government affairs, highlights that this legislative initiative is just the beginning of a long process. The amendment has initiated a crucial dialogue on cannabis regulation, with opportunities for adjustments and improvements as the discussion progresses.

The WSWA’s push for a regulatory framework for cannabis aligns with a broader cultural shift seen in the sober curious movement. This movement is transforming the conversation around drinking habits, where more Americans are opting to drink less or abstain from alcohol. A recent survey of over 1,000 Americans aged 21 or older revealed that 41% plan to drink less alcohol in 2024, a 7% increase from 2023.

Younger generations, particularly Gen Z, are at the forefront of this trend, with 61% planning to reduce their alcohol consumption in 2024, up from 40% in 2023. Millennials are also following this path, with nearly half planning to drink less. The primary motivations for this shift include saving money, improving physical health, making lifestyle changes, and enhancing mental health.

This cultural shift has led to the rise of nonalcoholic beverages, including mocktails, alcohol-free beer, wine, spirits, and THC or cannabis-infused drinks. The nonalcoholic beverage industry is booming, driven by consumer demand for healthier alternatives and the desire to explore new flavors. Mocktails are expected to be a major trend in 2024, with many consumers also interested in THC and CBD-infused drinks.

David Mukpo, CEO and founder of Pamos Cannabis Cocktails & Spirits, notes the booming market for hemp-derived THC beverages, driven by increased accessibility and consumer demand. Pamos aims to integrate THC beverages into the alcohol and spirits landscape, making them available wherever alcohol is sold. By allowing cannabis beverages at entertainment venues, companies like Pamos are normalizing consumption and offering consumers new ways to enjoy events.

The sober curious movement has also highlighted changing drinking habits in America. While 84% still view drinking as a significant part of American culture, this is down 9% from 2023. More Americans are identifying as mindful drinkers, being more considerate of how often and how much they drink.

The shift towards nonalcoholic beverages is further supported by celebrities and influencers promoting these products. Social media plays a significant role in informing consumers about new nonalcoholic options, particularly among Gen Z. Nearly one in four Gen Zers have tried a nonalcoholic beverage because a celebrity or influencer endorsed it.

The nonalcoholic beverage industry is experiencing significant growth. The most popular choices include mocktails and THC or CBD-infused drinks. Consumers are drawn to these beverages for their taste, perceived health benefits, and attractive presentation. Mocktails, in particular, are expected to be a major trend in 2024.

In addition to health and lifestyle motivations, financial considerations play a role in the shift towards nonalcoholic beverages. On average, Americans spend $105 a month on alcohol, which adds up to $1,260 annually. Reducing alcohol consumption can lead to substantial savings.

The WSWA’s advocacy for cannabis regulation using the alcohol framework aligns with broader cultural trends driven by the sober curious movement. By integrating cannabis into the established regulatory system for alcohol, the US can manage cannabis products effectively, ensuring safety and accountability. This approach addresses public safety concerns and supports the growing consumer interest in nonalcoholic and cannabis-infused beverages. As more Americans seek healthier, alcohol-free lifestyles, the demand for these alternatives will continue to rise, transforming the beverage industry and consumer habits. cannabis regulation beverage consumption



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