Cali Sober: An Opportunity for Cannabis to Shine

Alyssa Jank

The term “Cali sober” has been floating around since early 2019, when Michell Lhooq wrote an article for Vice about how she stopped drinking and using drugs, outside of cannabis and psychedelics. Since then many other people have used this term in describing their own journey in moving away from alcohol but continuing to use cannabis.

Young People are Drinking Less

In 2018, Berenberg Research found that Gen Z consumers were drinking over 20% less per capita than millennials — who drank less than baby boomers and Gen Xers did at the same age.  In our consumer data, we’ve found that 25% of Millennial cannabis users never or rarely drink alcohol.

sober october

There are many factors driving this trend. Consumers are more health conscious than ever before, which helps explain the popularity of hard seltzers (lower calorie, lower ABV, less sugar/carbs), but also why people may be cutting back on drinking. Sobriety has less stigma attached to it; many people participate in regular “sober periods” like Dry January or Sober October. Younger consumers are going out drinking less and staying home more (the “joy of missing out”).  They’re also more concerned about how they are perceived via social media; someDryJanuary_800x800_jpg-300x300one is always recording or filming and no one wants to look drunk on Instagram or Snapchat. Anxiety is rampant, especially in younger consumers, who may cut back on alcohol to help with their mental health or to avoid “hangxiety” (the anxiety that often accompanies a bad hangover). And finally, there are more alternatives to drinking than ever before: kombucha, sparkling water, innovative non-alc spirits and mocktails, as well as cannabis.

Cannabis Usage Can be More Universal

Cannabis consumption fits into more occasions and day parts than alcohol can. Someone who drinks a beer in the morning might be a problematic drinker, but it is not uncommon for a cannabis user to light up before breakfast and right before going to bed. Cannabis doesn’t cause hangovers, and it is nearly impossible to consume a dangerous amount of it, unlike alcohol. Cannabis consumption is also usually 0 calories or carbs (unless we’re talking about edibles).

Cali Sober Call out-07Because of these reasons, and many others, about 1/3 of Millennial cannabis consumers claim that they have been drinking less alcohol since cannabis was legalized, and nearly 60% of them say they use cannabis more often than they drink alcohol. There have been conflicting reports on how much of an impact these statistics have had on actual alcohol sales, but it does appear that there will be a significant impact in the long term as legalization spreads across the country and more consumers turn 21 with access to legal cannabis as an alternative to alcohol, and as social acceptance increases.

Because of this, nearly all of the Big Beer firms have aligned with Canadian cannabis licensed producers (LPs) in recent years, to varying degrees of success, as beer sales growth has slowed. Many of these BevAlc giants are hard at work leveraging their consumer and market knowledge to build brands and sales structures within the cannabis industry that would treat cannabis and beverage alcohol as sibling products while working to address usage occasions across the consumer landscape. 


Cali sober is likely not just a passing fad, but a trend that could reshape the cannabis and beverage alcohol industries in the near future.


Last Updated: 3/4/2020