Duff Said: High on your own supply

15 November, 2018

As the legalisation of cannabis opens up, Philip Duff asks what industry the liquor companies are really in

IT WILL NOT HAVE ESCAPED YOUR ATTENTION that strait-laced liquor executives have been queueing up like tweens at a Jake Paul concert to shower cash on cannabis firms, for fear of missing out on the epochal game-changer that is a newly legalised narcotic. This raises all kinds of questions, principally – what business are liquor firms in? If it is ‘intoxicants’, then why the sudden stampede to buy or create non-alcoholic ‘spirits’? I mean, have YOU tried getting off your face on Seedlip? Costs more than a Louis XIII binge, and you’re still sober at the end. If they are in the business of ‘conviviality’ (UK readers will pardon my use of a toxic word here) then why haven’t they bought shares in Woolly Socks Ltd, or any amount of hygge lifestyle brands?

What statistics we have seem to show cannabis is far safer than alcohol, but then, we don’t have enough data of cannabis use to credibly compare it to alcohol use – turns out it’s hard to get good comparative data when one of the things you are researching is illegal and the other is not. I lived in Holland for almost two decades, and I am here to tell you that cannabis can vary widely in strength, from ‘Taboo and lemonade’ to ‘Ardbeg Alligator with a cask-strength rye chaser washed down with an 8% IPA’ in terms of potency. There is no labeling, no standardisation, no way to compare like to like. You have to trust a cheerful hairy guy who looks like he knows his way around a Dungeons & Dragons board for advice on dose and impact. This also creates the opportunity of segmentation – having some White Witch when you want to get mellow, some exotic blend of Mexican marijuana pre-yoga, and some skunk when you plan to listen to drill music.

Cannabis has also never had a positive portrayal in the media. Indeed, alcohol, currently, is being demonised in popular culture. Alcohol is portrayed as something to be endured in order to get utterly drunk and make stupid, counter-productive mistakes which you spend the rest of the movie trying to rectify, a la The Hangover. Contrast to movies of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, where the protagonists would drink an elegant cocktail and fall in love, or resolve their enmities, or agree the big deal – alcohol made you wittier, smarter, more attractive. Cannabis lacks that. The association to feckless stoners is too strong and too soft a target for any movie or TV director in the past 50 years to resist.

Still, cannabis is – for now – taking its cues from liquor and wine. In Denver and Seattle, cannabis shops have emerged where enthusiastic experts will, if you don’t stop them, witter on for hours about terpenes and THC extraction just as your friendly neighborhood mixologist will talk your ear off about non-denominated Mexican agave distillates if you give him (and it is usually him when it comes to bores) half a chance. So perhaps, after all, Constellation, Diageo et al, rather than being in the business of alcohol or conviviality, are in the business of such connoisseurship – long may it continue.

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