The Differences Between Cannabis and Alcohol

In many provinces and territories across the country, cannabis is being treated much like alcohol. In fact, some provinces have the same government agency regulating sales of both. To some extent, this makes sense since current law has created similar regulations for both liquor sales and cannabis sales. However, the two substances, while both intoxicants of some form, are pretty different in their own right. It’s important for those new to cannabis to understand the differences between cannabis and alcohol and to keep those differences in mind when partaking.

Cannabis Affects Individuals Differently

For the most part, alcohol has similar intoxicating effects on the adults who drink it. Sure, those with a lower tolerance will get drunk faster, however, that’s the case for everyone with a low tolerance. Cannabis, on the other hand, can have varying effects based on a person’s physiognomy. While a strain may make one person feel energized, it may make another feel paranoid. This may have to do with the unique way cannabis interacts with our endocannabinoid system. When it comes to cannabis, the rule of thumb is to start low and go slow. That is to say, to start with smaller doses that are spaced out.

THC Ratio and Proof Don’t Correlate

Most of us are aware that alcohol comes in a medley of proofs. Lower proof options like beers will take longer to get one drunk, whereas higher proof items like liquor have a quicker effect.

This is not the case with THC. While THC has always been thought of the cannabinoid that gets you high, just because a strain has a high-THC content, it won’t necessarily get you more high. There are plenty of other factors to take into account, including physiognomy, CBD content, and more.

Similarly, when running roadside tests for intoxication, Blood-alcohol levels tend to mean the same thing across the board. Testing for THC, which isn’t as accurate to begin with, does not provide accurate readings as to whether a person is cannabis-impaired. This has made testing for such impairment nearly impossible, with officers having to rely on their own subjective opinions. The most reliable THC tests can only indicate whether THC has been ingested within a certain period of time, not how impaired an individual is at a given time.

Consumption Methods

While cannabis can be infused to beverages, most alcohol is beverage form. Sure, you can use wine in a nice pot roast or turn some tequila into a sorbet, but cooking alcohol actually diminishes its potency. For example, when making a wine-based sauce, you “cook off the alcohol” so it is no longer intoxicating. You’ll still get a lovely flavor, but no heady buzz.

Cannabis, on the other hand, can be smoked, vaped, or ingested in a variety of forms. While heat can destroy alcohol, it actually turns THCa into THC, making it psychoactive and turning it into the useful compound that is associated with being “high”. Cannabis needs the heat during the decarboxylation process in order to be effective. That means cooking it into something like brownies or even a pasta can still produce a potent dish. It’s also the same reason you ignite or vaporize flower.

And One Similarity

Both alcohol and cannabis are biphasic intoxicants. That means that differing doses of these “drugs” can lead to opposite effects. Alcohol can be both a sedative and a stimulant, as can cannabis. However, while alcohol will have consistent effects for most individuals, cannabis’s biphasic effects will be felt differently in different people. Even in their similarity, the two substances remain distinct!

While these differences may not be enough to create separate regulating agencies, they are certainly important for adult users to keep in mind!

*This post is not meant to constitute medical advice. For questions about medical cannabis, contact your doctor