2018 Key Wine Trends #2 – Cannabis and Wine

How did the American wine industry evolve in 2018? It’s a “meta question” that directs us to examine those issues that coursed through all elements of the industry and in the long run have the potential to significantly impact how industry professionals work, how the industry is perceived and how consumers respond to the industry’s offerings.

Three issues drove the evolution of the American wine industry in 2018. This is the second of three posts examining those issues.

For more than 80 years the only legal recreational drug has been alcohol. While Americans happily went outside the realm of “legal” to get their buzz, it has been alcohol that was the state-approved innebriant. This changed significantly in 2018 when legal recreational cannabis sales came to America’s largest state: California.

The questions that have swirled around the wine industry in 2018 are two-fold: To what extent will legal cannabis impact wine sales and to what extent or whether the California wine industry ought to work with legal cannabis in a co-promotional way?

The Economist Magazine made note of the competition: “will encourage more women, baby boomers and high earners—all stalwarts of the wine business—to smoke weed instead. In other states, the legalisation of medical marijuana has been associated with a roughly 15% fall in alcohol consumption. Cannabis is taking off because it appeals especially to the health-conscious inebriate. In one poll, 72% of American consumers said they thought marijuana was safer than alcohol.”

Meanwhile, the California wine industry continues to explore how and to what extent it will work with the emerging legal cannabis industry at the Wine & Weed Symposium, which will again be produced in 2019 by Wine Industry Network.

Throughout the year mainstream media outlets like Chatelaine explained how cannabis can be a legal and more healthy substitute for alcohol.

As for me, I’m sure that legal cannabis will impact wine sales, not to mention the wine industries in various states. My view is that the industry should not be looking for ways to work with the cannabis industry for the same reason the wine industry doesn’t work with the beer and spirits industry. They are a direct competitor. On the other hand, I’m equally convinced the wine industry ought to look for ways to combat the threat of cannabis both on wine sales and wine tourism.

The competition between cannabis and alcohol will only increase and become more intense in 2019 and beyond. Among the questions going forward are how will the emergence of this new, legal inebriant change the wine industry. Because it will. To what degree will cannabis sales eat into wine sales? And, to what degree will labor shortages impact wine in key grape growing stakes due to competition with cannabis growers and processors?


One Response

  1. Peter Ricci - December 28, 2018

    I am way behind the curve here, never having used cannabis. To me it is just another option for cocktail hour, dinner, whatever. Unless they can make it taste like Bordeaux or Vouvray, no interest on my part. Grew out of the wine buzz thing decades ago.

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