Britain has a long history of alcohol consumption, and local pubs play an important role in its culture. However, like many other traditions, it is something that is quite dynamic and keeps changing. There were times when, mostly, men were seen in the pubs. Similarly, the age of pub-goers, selection of drinks also keeps changing from time to time.
There is a sound reason to believe that legalization of cannabis may considerably alter pub culture in the UK. However, it is still challenging to predict the impact of cannabis on drinking habits in the UK, as its non-medical use is still not legal in the country. Nonetheless, one can expect specific changes based on the US experience, where recreational cannabis is legal in several states.
One of the facts that may play a particular role in a change is the change in the attitude towards alcohol in the younger generation in the UK and many other European nations. The young generation does not perceive being drunk as something to boast about. It may have to do with the popularity of social media, too. These days drunken behaviour gets recorded and becomes a subject of embarrassment.
A study by NHS found that in the last couple of decades, alcohol consumption has considerably reduced in the young generation. Almost one-third of young adults aged 16-24 years are not drinking at all, in comparison to 18% in 2005. Young adults are more aware of the health risks associated with alcohol. Further, everyone wants to look good on social media posts. There is a shift in the definition of what is cool and what is not, and being drunk is not cool anymore.
Thus, it is quite probable that many young adults may shift to cannabis. However, to date, it is difficult to predict as the recreational use of cannabis is still illegal in the UK. Nonetheless, chances are relatively high that it might be legalized in the near future. Particularly keeping in mind, the public opinion, and the need for increasing tax revenues in the post COVID era.
What can we learn from the experience of the US?
One way to understand how cannabis legalization may impact alcohol use in the UK is to look at the US trends and stats. Many large alcohol manufacturers in the US are already investing in cannabis-infused drinks. Reason for such a change is not a fall in alcohol consumption, rather a worry that things may change quickly and unpredictably, in the near future. Alcohol beverage manufacturers in the US are not seeing any significant drop in sales, as cannabis use is still not mainstream. However, experts predict that things may change quite drastically when cannabis use becomes legal in the whole nation, and people start switching to cannabis.
There is a general belief that moderate cannabis consumption is much safer than alcohol, and is less probable to cause various health problems in the long term. Moreover, cannabis use may be even beneficial in certain health conditions, like suppressing chronic pains. Experts do not see any considerable threat to the alcohol market in the short term, but things may look different over the long run.
Needless to say, that cannabis would not wholly replace alcohol consumption, and only a small population group will shift. Nonetheless, with wider acceptability of cannabis, this slight shift may have a significant impact on the alcohol market and pub culture in various nations, including the UK.
Researchers also think that cannabis adaptation will be higher in younger adults. Older generations will perhaps continue going to pubs, stick with their favourite alcohol drinks. Younger adults may prefer cannabis over alcohol due to its conceived benefits like a person looks sober, may have some health benefits, helps feel persuaded and imaginative.
All the above conclusion coming from the US are not based on sheer imagination. Already some early studies are emerging, confirming the change in drinking habits. Studies in the US indicate that there has been a considerable reduction in binge drinking in the states where cannabis use is legal. Thus, some experts believe that the US market is already going through the change.
Can cannabis affect UK pub culture?
Some people may insist that US studies may not apply to the UK due to the high popularity of pubs. Moreover, the recreational use of cannabis in the UK may be more strictly controlled. It may be true to an extent, but one should not forget that market of illegal cannabis in the UK is already booming.
Specialists think that older adults or baby boomers are not likely to change their habits and will continue to visit their local pubs for their favourite drinks. Thus, most of the change may come from younger adults who are staying sober.
Alcohol companies are already betting high on this expected shift in the UK and some other European nations. However, lots would depend on the legislative changes in future. So far, it is not completely clear how this will affect the total alcohol culture in the UK, but some change will undoubtedly occur.