When I tell people I smoke weed, the general response is a dismissive, “Oh I haven’t done that in ages,” as if it’s juvenile. Then I’ll see that same person later that night, after too many drinks, stumbling sick, outside the bar. One substance is not more “mature” than the other and yet cannabis has gotten a bad rap historically, associated with lazy stoners with no goals. Whereas wine and cocktails are for classy people, apparently. And shots are for the cast of Vanderpump Rules.
In 2017, nearly 15 percent of Americans smoked weed and 73 percent of adults drank alchohol, and both of these numbers are reportedly increasing steadily. The phrase “pick your poison” stems from the idea that we get to choose exactly how and what we want to feel and when—and there’s no shame in any choice, made in the spirit of conscious consumption. After all, what was once a gravity bong made from an old Gatorade bottle is now a dreamy Awmoo Pipe that looks like actual art, used for self-care as much as recreation.
Curious about why people pick the poisons they do, I sat down with two of my friends to talk about the age-old weed versus alcohol debate. When discussing the two “vices” (note the quotation marks), I wanted to look at more than just how they make people feel. I wanted to discuss moderation and the ritual of it, in addition to the cerebral and physical effects.
Alex a.k.a the “drinker” is an artist and food studies professor in New York City. Lane a.k.a the “smoker” works in craft beer in Brooklyn, but prefers cannabis in her off hours. They sat down together to talk about the pros and cons of consuming cannabis versus alcohol and what they love about their individual “poisons.”
Drinking a glass of something nice makes me focus in on a conversation and loosen my grip on other concerns. I am more relaxed and cheerful. A glass of wine is also a sort of marker for the end of the day, that you've made it to the other side. Primarily, it takes the edge off of my tension. It's a pretty powerful tool in that regard. Beyond that, it also expands my capacity to be social and engage with others. It relieves the pressure of obsessive thoughts. It also seems to make myself and others more spontaneous and free to be strange, which is always a good thing.
Smoking some weed makes all the tension in my body immediately go away and makes my mood more relaxed. It also makes me feel funnier because my girlfriend laughs at my jokes more. She is usually also high so that may be it, too. I really love the unwinding, worry-free mindset, and the giggles. It’s also very, very rare to have weed affect me the following day. I’ve never thrown up from smoking. I also use weed to deal with stomach issues and migraines that I get. Smoking one hit or two of a vape pen or bowl also helps me manage cramps during my period. I consider weed just as much a medicine as a de-stressor—and something that makes shitty action movies a lot better.
I like to have a drink in the evenings, primarily. When the sun sets, a glass of wine calls. It is so sensory; watching wine splash into a glass; smelling the nose on a new type of liquor—I am a real sucker for aesthetics. There is something distinctly atmospheric about cozying up in a dark bar or a dimly lit restaurant with a glass of wine or a Negroni. I’d say my preference is red wine in a big, wide-mouthed wine glass, or a Negroni over a brick of ice in a thin rocks glass. The way a drink is served changes how fast you drink it, what you feel about it, and how much you savor it.
I tend to smoke at night, ideally in my pajamas or sweats, on my couch, firing up some reality TV or a movie. If it’s during the day and it’s a nice day out, I definitely prefer to be outside, going on a hike or to the beach. My method of consuming changes depending on my mood. I’ll usually do a bowl if I’m just going to take two small hits while I’m cooking. Otherwise, I love a good bong rip. Unless I’m feeling classy and then a joint. My favorite part of the ritual is packing the bowl or rolling the joint and then the first hit that relaxes me the most.
In 2019, I've been writing down all of the drinks I have, and being honest about why I am consuming. I have no interest in not drinking my favorite beverages. But it's about moderation for me these days. The irony is that alcohol's anti-anxiety effects are deceptive. Alcohol often compounds my anxiety in the long-term. I can pretty directly relate drinking with waking up feeling overwhelmed and indecisive. I know that my use of alcohol impacts everything from self-confidence to productivity.
Typically, I only smoke a few hits each night. Just enough to relax and calm me down after a busy day. Depending on the strain, or general anxieties of my life, sometimes weed can make me more anxious or paranoid. I pay attention to how I feel and moderate based on that. Weed can also make me anxious in social situations, so I know I need to smoke less if I’m going to be interacting with a lot of people. If I have cramps or stomach issues, I tend to smoke more to help those, but I rarely smoke too much, except sometimes if I wake and bake too hard, my brain is foggy for the rest of the day and I need a nap. I’ve only ever woken up the following day still feeling high or with a foggy brain a handful of times and it was because I took edibles, so I know I need to be extra careful with those.
Weed and alcohol use are obviously not mutually exclusive and as cannabis becomes legal in more regions, the way we consume these two substances (either together or separately) will likely continue to evolve quite dramatically as culture does. That said, people will always abstain from what doesn’t sit well with them, and others will “pick a side.” But I, for one, am grateful we’re not forced to.