What You Should Know About Drinking Weed
What I learned from replacing my alcohol with cannabis elixirs for a week.
The first thing I did when I moved into my first grown-up apartment was get a boss-ass bar cart. It was Don Draper meets Drake—a vintage, copper-detailed, two-story jam with $40 bourbon and bottles of Santa Margarita Rosé for those nights when fame isn’t enough and letting exes know is crucial. Around this time, I went from being on one to only having one, transitioning from messy drunk weekends to a weeknight nightcap ritual.
My liver rejoiced at this life change—but only a little because I still love the sauce, just in more humane amounts and a more controlled environment. Three or four times a week, I’ll have a generous pour of red, Mezcal, or I’ll mix myself a stiff Old Fashioned. This ritual is very relaxing. I sink into my couch—glass in hand—turn on the ‘flix, and sigh loudly as if I’ve had a trying day full of difficult executive decisions.
The thing is, alcohol isn’t exactly fresh coconut water, especially for a 33-year-old who’s trying to look and feel like a 26-year-old for the next decade or so. While drinking moderately like I do hasn’t been shown to be a huge issue, alcohol does add age to your skin, and it can make anxious people (hello!) more anxious. Plus, it can fuck with your sleep patterns, which sucks because I really need my nine hours in order to make pretty sentences out of words for a living.
“Alcohol may help you fall asleep initially,” says Mitch Earleywine, professor of psychology at the University of Albany, as well as author of Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence. “But often, once you’ve metabolized it all, you end up waking up. Early morning awakening or waking up in the middle of the night seems to be more common in some of the research.”
These factors were not enough to thwart my home happy hour. But when Monk Provisions offered me free press samples of their newly minted “drinking botanicals” elixir—a cannabis cocktail, basically—I wondered if I could possibly retain my ritual pre-bedtime buzz without the alcohol.
I decided to replace my nightcap with the elixir for one week and see how I feel. Yes, I’d essentially be subbing one substance for another, but hear me out. None of my current habits indicate abuse of any kind. Also, scholars who have been steeped in the potential positive effects of cannabis use feel this could be a healthier alternative than dousing my liver with Bulleit every 24 hours or so.
“This should really be a great move,” Earleywine says when I tell him about my experiment. “The cannabinoids are certainly not as toxic or as carcinogenic as alcohol is. Metabolism by the liver is also much easier than it is with alcohol. All systems go.”
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Lately I’d also been noticing that a drink or two didn’t relax me as much as it used to years ago. I wondered if my anxiety’s relationship to alcohol had changed over the years. It’s possible, my experts tell me. One thing was clear: The four-ounce elixir definitely enhanced my bedtime experience from the first evening I tried it. While it’s technically a microdose (the elixirs come in a few different “dosages” and I tried the 5 mg CBD / 5 mg THC combo), I felt noticeably more relaxed within 20 minutes of sipping.
CBD, one of the main compounds in cannabis, can have a sedative effect on a lot of people. THC, the other main compound, is thought to have pain-relieving qualities, but is most commonly known for providing the high. There’s a lot to be said about microdosing and how consuming one without the other works, but I’ll tell you about my experience. I had a different elixir every evening, for four nights out of last week. The flavors are thoughtfully curated by founders Aaron Burke and Melanie McGraw, who wanted to mimic the appeal of a craft cocktail for people who generally prefer greenery to alcohol.
Here’s what you should know if you’re going to try these:
The flavors are aggressive so you might have to play bartender.
Burke tells me the natural extracts they use for these elixirs (lemon, ginger, maple shrub, and lavender, to name a few) are chosen strategically to work in tandem with the CBD and/or THC. “They’re not just a vehicle for THC—the botanicals support the effect of it,” he says. Terpenes—the organic compounds in plants that are known to give weed its distinct scents—such as linalool (found in lavender) are relaxing for a lot of folks, Earlywine confirms. Some of these flavors were a bit heavy for my palate, so I diluted them with a flavorless La Croix.
Don’t try to “treat” yourself without a doctor’s guidance.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t dole out some finger-wagging, via a doctor I spoke to about my fun little experiment. “The main issue is the ‘buzz,’” says Amarjot Surdhar, a psychiatrist who deals with substance abuse and addiction at Northwell Health in New York. “Once people start chasing the buzz or the fix, it’s a matter of time as this escalates and gets out of hand.” Surdhar was palpably alarmed by my elixir enchantment, and I had to assure him that I didn’t need a “fix” in order to sleep, and that I’d take his concerns about potential abuse seriously. “To really understand the need for CBD use, we have to understand the setting in which it is used,” he says, adding that while there’s a lot of excitement surrounding cannabis as a treatment alternative to opioids, he can’t make an informed decision on how beneficial it is in general until there’s more research out.
These are only available in California right now.
I see your Amazon Prime app finger twitching. Alas, because of states’ individual restrictions on products with CBD and THC in them, the elixirs are currently only available in California (for about $7 a bottle and $35 for a sampler box of 5). Burke says they have plans to expand to other states where recreational cannabis is legal soon.
They’re different from edibles so don’t expect to get weird on them.
People have horror stories about how messed up they got one time off that edible and that’s probably because, Earleywine tells me, eating weed can be more intense than smoking it. (More on that below.) Also, the dosage on the packaging could have been off. “They’d say 5 mg. Then suddenly you’d be tripping balls and you were like—this is not 5 mg." He adds that brands have gotten better about this now. Finally, because cannabis can be distributed unevenly through solid foods like cookies or brownies, people can consume a small piece that has more of the substance in it than the other parts. Burke tells me they specifically designed this drink to ensure that a microdose that will relax you without getting you super high. “That allows you to better manage your experience,” he says, "so you can gauge whether you want to have a second one or not.”
You’ll likely feel the effects differently than if you smoked.
“It’s going to be absorbed by the mucus membranes in your mouth,” Earleywine tells me, about drinking cannabis versus inhaling it. “The amount you have [in the elixir] is not the same as 5 mg THC smoked, in part because it’s turning into another version of THC that has more psychoactivity.” So, it may take a little longer to feel the effects but those effects will last longer.
They made me sleep like a fat, fed, slightly high baby.
I had no type of hangover and no grogginess in the morning, either. Monk uses mostly a hybrid (combo of sativa and indica) for the drinks with THC in them, but all of them fully put me at ease—body and mind. Again, it all depends on your setting and mental state to begin with, but I was good. That being said, I wouldn’t drink these before work, working out, or any other scenario where I’d have to exert mental or physical energy.
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