Gen Z & Cannabis: Our Youth Chooses Weed Over Alcohol & Cigarettes, Is This Good Or Bad?

What sets Gen Z apart from their parents and grandparents? 

Technology is the first thing that comes to mind as the most defining difference from their predecessors. And it's huge. Baby Boomers grew up with black-and-white TV, Gen X developed computer skills and Millennials matured on the Internet.

And Gen Z? Well, they grew, developed and matured with a combination of all of the above.

Why is this important? Because technology has an undeniably huge impact on our social interactions, which are among our crucial characteristics. It impacts us both positively and negatively. Among other things that set those born between 1997 and 2012 (Gen Z) apart from other generations is the cannabis legalization trend. As it turns out, Gen Zers were between birth or age 15 when the first states legalized marijuana, wrote Amanda Reiman, Ph.D., MSW, vice president of public policy research, New Frontier Data.

So, how do Gen Zers feel about pot?

Survey Summary 

According to a recent survey by New Frontier Data, “the kids are alright.” What the study authors mean is born out in the following research highlights:

Gen Zers like marijuana, but not until they are old enough. The study revealed that between 2017 and 2020 past-month cannabis consumption declined 8% among those aged 18-20, but increased for older Gen Zers between 21 and 25. By comparison, the biggest increase was seen among Baby Boomers aged 60-64, whose monthly consumption grew by 56%.

  • Gen Zers are not really into alcohol or tobacco. 

According to a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health by researchers at the University of Washington, there was a decline in each past-month alcohol use, heavy episodic drinking and cigarette use among Gen Zers in Washington between 2014 and 2019. The New Frontier Data Consumer Survey had similar observance revealing an overall disinterest in alcohol and tobacco among individuals in Gen Z. 

Some 19.7% of cannabis consumers between 18-24 said they never drank alcohol and were among the least likely to say they drank every day (5.9%). Also, 39.3% of them said they'd never used tobacco. 

  • Gen Zers seem to purposely choose marijuana over booze.  

As many as 69% of people between 18 and 24 stated a preference for cannabis over alcohol, compared to almost 70% of those aged 25-34, 68% aged 35-44, 55% aged 45-54, 52% aged 55-64, and 44% aged 65-74. 

  • Gen Zers do not place as much effort as older consumers in replacing alcohol with cannabis. 

56% of those aged 18-24 revealed replacing some of their alcohol with marijuana, compared to almost 60% among ages 25-34, and more than 60% among 35-44-year-olds. Those rates dropped further among older groups, from 44% among 45-54-year-olds to about 43% among ages 55-64, and nearly 30% among ages 65-74. It is important to note that the 18-24-year-old group already reported being more likely to not consume alcohol at all.

Reiman concluded that the research data indicated young people are handling the legal marijuana space by avoiding compulsive and increased consumption, and are also less inclined to use alcohol or tobacco, which makes cannabis their preferred substance. 

Considering that cannabis carries a lower risk of dependence than do either alcohol or tobacco – and presents no risk of either fatal overdose (e.g., alcohol) or long-term impacts to the lungs (e.g., tobacco) – it suggests that the younger generation may indeed be making more considered choices about their consumption patterns. In sum, the kids are alright,” Reiman wrote. 

Could it be that simple? Are Kids Really Alright? 

It is important to note, that the cannabis plant, although it has many benefits compared to alcohol and tobacco, a plethora of its compounds and effects on the human brain and body have not been researched enough. More and more studies confirm the negative effects marijuana use has on the developing brain, warning pregnant women to be careful or completely avoid cannabis consumption. There are also studies indicating a potential relationship between marijuana use and a higher risk of repeat stroke among young consumers, and another one on the risk of premature heart attacks

On the other end of the spectrum are numerous studies demonstrating the health benefits, especially when used as a treatment for diseases such as cancer, epilepsy, etc. 

In the end, while lower use of alcohol and tobacco seem positive at first glance, exchanging one consumption habit for another raises another question: why do new generations need anything like this in the first place? To treat anxiety and sleep disorders? But, is it really alright that 18-year-olds in the prime of their lives are suffering from anxiety or anything else, for which they need a substance to help them deal with it? Deal with the world. I don’t think it is alright. 

How did it come to this? While the answer is probably too complex to be attainable, one part of it probably lies at the beginning – technology. The progress of technology has changed our surroundings and estranged us from ourselves and others, making us more prone to various controversial choices.  

Photo: Courtesy of Devin Avery on Unsplash

Posted In: Amanda Reimancannabis and studiesGen Z marijuanaGeneration Z and cannabisNew Frontier DataCannabisNewsMarkets

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