Marijuana and Alcohol: A Call for Peace

Dank IPA campaign (Photo ©99 Designs)

Dank IPA campaign (Photo ©99 Designs)

Colorado is a state of rebellion.  Oh, sure, there’s much posturing in Texas due to their former status as an independent nation and the Original 13 Colonies certainly have a revolutionary past but consider the following.  Which city won an Olympic bid, then snubbed the IOC saying thanks, but no thanks?  That’d be Denver.  Where can hunters shoot wildly into the clouds, try to bring down military drones?  Good ole Deer Trail.  Who boasted the world’s first legal recreational marijuana sale?  Nobody but us.  Federal offense?  We hardly know the meaning of the word.  We disregard what the rest of the nation thinks and says; we’re the Honey Badger State: Colorado don’t care, Colorado don’t give a $#!+.

We’re a state of open-minded, do-as-you-will citizens; we’re free-spirited and we encourage people to do what makes them happy regardless of outsiders’ perceptions.  Skiers and boarders tussle from time-to-time but, in the end, we’re all brothers and sisters in gnar shredding.  Kayakers and anglers drift through each other’s currents but we’re all disciples of the river.  Yes, we all pretty much get along.  Until we don’t.  Which brings me to my point.  Ever since legalized marijuana became a hot topic, I can’t help but notice cannabis advocates bashing booze.

Before I go any further, a few points about me and my stance on marijuana so that you might have a better understanding of where I’m coming from.  No, I am not a habitual pot smoker, beer is my substance of choice (as such, much of my argument centers around craft brewing but most of it can be applied to wine and spirits, too).  Yes, throughout my life, I’ve had plenty of exposure to the controversial plant; I have friends who smoke, I went to school at Wasted Western State, I’ve been to Amsterdam, I’ve gone to enough concerts, and I’ve skied epic powder days, smelling the aromas wafting down from the uphill chairs.  Yes, I voted to legalize marijuana and I voted thusly for several reasons.

For one, I wanted the tax revenue; instead of my tax dollars going to feed, house, medicate,..etc. prisoners busted on drug charges, I wanted to generate cash and, ideally, subsidize our school systems.  Secondly, I recognize the general benignity of marijuana; I realize that the 1936 film Reefer Madness may have been a scosche hyperbolized and that civilization probably won’t collapse as a result of legalized weed.  In sum, I voted to legalize because it’s potentially a great money-maker and it has little to no ill effect on society as a whole (especially considering Colorado was so pot-friendly to begin with; there was always a haze hanging over the Rocky Mountains, now it’s just official).

(Photo ©The Weed Blog)

(Photo ©The Weed Blog)

I, the beer geek, embrace you and your lifestyle, pot smokers.  Live and let live, I say.  I don’t want what you’re burning, but to each their own.  I’m just not getting the impression that this is a two-way street.  Indeed, sometimes I get the feeling that Team Cannabis is out to destroy the alcohol industry.

Most of the time, they’re only minor jabs.  For instance, when Westword posts a beer-related story to their Facebook page, I see comments such as the following (names and specific articles omitted for privacy reasons, of course):

“Beer = bad. Cannabis = good.”

“Who needs breweries? We have cannabis”

“F Beer! Go Green!”

Admittedly, these are isolated comments from ignorant people.  I certainly don’t damn the entire lot of smokers for the behavior of a few.  Nonetheless, this faction does exist.  As a supporter of the craft beer movement, as somebody who’s intimately connected with brewing culture, I know these snippy little rabble-rousers aren’t simply attacking a libation, they’re attacking small businesses.  They’re attacking the dreams of ambitious and artistic entrepreneurs.  They’re attacking a tradition that dates back to Khonso Em-Heb, brewer to the Egyptian gods, and likely even further back in history than that.  These blasé under-cutters get me downright irate because I see the bigger picture.  For some reason, these folks can’t stand the fact that other people prefer a pint to a bowl; in contrast to my assumption that cannabis culture revolves around the philosophy that we’re free to be who we want to be, there’s a small but active conformist sect that cannot tolerate lifestyles different from their own.

Unfortunately, the anti-alcohol campaign rears its ugly head in official, pro-pot statements, too.  Sometimes I wonder if a cannabis advocate can make a statement without disparaging alcohol in the same breath.  Weed does wonders for glaucoma?  Excellent, mention that.  The chronic eases chronic pain?  Cool, I’m with ya.  Where you lose me is when you tack on, “oh, by the way, alcohol causes x many deaths a year” or “Alcohol makes people rape and kill.”   Whoa, dude.  I’m fine with you stating your case for MJ’s benefits but you lose my support when you bash my lifestyle.  This is not an election, there’s no need for a smear campaign, and this isn’t Highlander, there can be more than one.  It weakens your argument, makes you look vindictive, when you have to put-down another industry to make your own look better.  Plus, I’d like to once again mention the men and women who toil in the brew room.  I don’t think you realize how difficult is to own and operate a small, craft brewery.  Over 150 Colorado brewers have enough to contend with making ends meet and living in the shadow of Coors, they don’t need to be condemned at the pulpit, too.

We booze-hounds aren’t fools; we realize the negative consequences of irresponsible alcohol consumption.  Bad things happen when you guzzle two liters of Everclear.  No duh.  You have to chalk that up to sheer stupidity more than the imbibed liquid, though; dumb people shouldn’t be around alcohol much as violent people shouldn’t be around firearms, pedophiles shouldn’t be around preschools, and the obese shouldn’t be around McDonald’s.  And alcohol makes people rape and kill?  Sounds like a good excuse for rapists and killers to cleanse themselves of guilt: “I didn’t do it!  The alcohol did!”  In truth, a bastard is a bastard whether drunk or sober, don’t give them the option of copping out.  I know Jamie Foxx told you to “Blame it on the alcohol” but the issue’s much more complicated.  Besides, there are downfalls to marijuana use, too, but I’ve never heard the Brewers Association or the Colorado Brewers Guild release any statements vilifying bud (unless it’s Bud Light) and I expect cannabis advocates to mind their own business just the same.

I sometimes wonder where that chip on the cannabis advocate’s shoulder comes from.  My best guess: it stems from jealousy.  While alcohol suffered a Prohibition from 1920 to 1933, the prohibition on weed lasted decades more (and will continue for decades more in conservative regions of America).  Beer, with Colorado’s governor co-founding the state’s first brewpub and with Obama being a homebrewer, is a political sweetheart while our elected officials shun marijuana, chain it up under the back porch like the family’s shame.  Furthermore, sipping your dad’s brewski on a fishing trip is considered a rite of passage, sharing a doob with the old man is considered bad parenting.  Yes, alcohol has received preferential treatment and that’s not fair.  And neither is life.  I’m sorry it’s been an uphill battle for hemp lovers but to lash out at alcohol is just petty.

Pettiness is definitely not the aura cannabis advocates need to be giving off, either.  We all know Colorado is craft beer-friendly; our citizens can’t get enough of the sudsy goodness.  Now, if you’re trying to garner support for marijuana, do you really think it’s wise to piss off a huge chunk of the population?  Consider this, too; I know a lot of folks who smoke the ganj—those same folks are some of my best drinking buddies.  The Venn diagram of “drinkers” and “smokers”—at least in Colorado—is almost a perfect overlap.  I can’t tell you how many homebrew sessions I’ve attended where my cohorts lit up a bowl as they waited on wort to boil.  Why demonize alcohol when half the people at the cannabis rally are probably going to end their night at a brewery?

Truthfully, pot culture and beer culture are more alike than they are different.  We all like kickin’ back and enjoying a nice day whether it be with a bock or a blunt.  Even then, our choice of substance isn’t far removed—humulus lupulus (AKA the hop plant) belongs to the family cannabaceae which, as you might have guessed by the spelling, also includes the hemp plant.  Botanically speaking, there’s hardly any difference between a joint and a glass of IPA.  The IPA just adds water, malt, and yeast to the mix.  Furthermore, I’ve never met a despicable beer geek or a mean pot head—everybody’s welcoming and friendly.  We’re all passionate about what we love, growers and brewers alike sacrifice time and sweat in ensuring a quality product, and we all want to engage in our respective recreational activities in peace.


Hops and hemp are cousins

I beseech you, dear tokers, to call off the dogs.  I also challenge you to watch Crafting a Nation.  When you see the trials and tribulations of opening and running a brewery and when you understand the enormous hearts of those who brew, you’ll never want to bad-mouth beer again.  We boozers have no beef with you.  In many respects, we are you—two sides to the same coin (sometimes the same side of the same coin).  I look forward to a peaceful coexistence and, like a marriage between two warring tribes, I’m sure a pot-infused beer is just around the corner, a sign that, yes, a permanent cease-fire has finally been called.

About Chris Bruns

Chris Bruns is a self-professed beer geek living in Denver. Chris spends much of his time brewing beer at home with friends and family, attempting to visit every brewery in Colorado, attending special beer events and festivals, purchasing and assessing the latest releases from local breweries, and blogging about his adventures in the world of craft beer. He is also the Denver Craft Beer Examiner on Contact Chris by e-mail at or through his blog at

  • D.T. Pennington

    Let’s not forget that both hops and marijuana hail from the Cannabaceae plant family.

    As far as the warring tribes – I usually don’t mind one or the other until it comes down to festivals, then they are both pretty unbearable. Had the Cannabis World Cup outside my front door last year, drew in a huge crowd of undesireables (most of which did not have tickets) and High Times failed to clean up after themselves.

    At the same time, being anywhere downtown after GABF lets out is opportunity for malarky.

  • Chris Washenberger

    The stupid judgement goes both ways. I am over hearing beer drinkers, intoxicant in hand, complaining about “stupid stoners.” I can’t see what is wrong with mixing the two and having a good time. I guess you can’t be a connoisseur without shitting on something else.