For many young millennials, their first introduction to cannabis *probably* came from one of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s films. Maybe it was 2007’s Superbad. Perhaps it was Knocked Up, also released in 2007. Or, most likely, it was 2008’s Pineapple Express. (There was *a lot* of weed in that film.) Regardless of which “stoner movie” it was, the late aughts were filled with Rogen and Goldberg and a whole lot of marijuana. And now, 13 years after the release of Superbad, the co-creators and real-life friends are re-introducing cannabis to their fans, but this time through beverages.
In March 2019, the pair launched Houseplant, a cannabis brand that prioritizes curating quality products and educating their consumers. In May of this year, the brand officially launched Houseplant Beverages with Houseplant Grapefruit, a cannabis-infused sparkling water that contains 2.5mg of sativa-dominant THC. (Sativa strains are energizing and great for physical activity and being social, meaning that you’ll have more of a peppy high, rather than a more mellow one.)
While the idea of cannabis beverages isn’t exactly new (perhaps, you, like some people I attended high school with, were first introduced to cannabis beverages via “weed milk”, a.k.a. dissolving marijuana buds into milk and then drinking it), it is *fairly* newly legal. Cannabis beverages were federally legalized in Canada in October 2019 which means that the market is still growing. But there definitely is a market. Since its launch in May 2o2o, Houseplant Grapefruit was the number one selling cannabis drink in Ontario (its largest market) over the summer. In October, they launched their second flavour, Houseplant Lemon. And next up? A Houseplant empire—or at least more flavours of sparkling water.
FLARE chatted with Goldberg, Rogen and Houseplant’s CCO Haneen Davies about the latest flavour drop, the perks to drinking cannabis instead of alcohol and why conversations about their weed drinks can’t be independent from the issue of weed and prison reform.
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Cannabis beverages are great for beginners
New to cannabis beverages and cannabis in general? You’re definitely not alone. And beverages may actually be a good place to start. Recent research by Mintel found that 48% of Canadians who have never tried cannabis before are interested in ingestible products like beverages. Which is exactly what Houseplant and its founders want—an accessible experience for their consumers. “What’s nice about our beverages is that they definitely act as a perfect entry-level beverage,” Davies says. While Houseplant Beverages is for every consumer at every experience level, the 2.5mg of THC is a “pretty approachable” dosage, she says, which allows consumers to control their experience.
And as for any tips for someone who’s trying a cannabis beverage for the first time, Davies has one big tip: “It’s about low and slow,” she says of consuming Houseplant. “Especially if you’re new—just give it a chance, wait a little bit. We say give it a minimum 30 minutes [after drinking a full can] to see how you feel before you move on [to consuming more], especially if it’s your first time.”
Most important to remember is to move at your own pace and consume however much you and your body are comfortable with. “Every single person is different,” she says.
Not to mention, cannabis drinks have some benefits over booze
So why exactly *would* someone choose to crack open a cold Houseplant Beverage over say, a big glass of white wine? Turns out there are a lot of reasons. “I truly can’t imagine why you would choose an alcoholic beverage over one of these drinks,” Rogen says. As someone who only drinks alcohol occasionally, having a glass of red wine once every few weeks, “the truth is [that] alcohol is very unhealthy,” he says. And Rogen isn’t wrong. Despite the prevailing wisdom that red wine is good for your health, alcohol is the second most calorie-rich nutrient after fat, meaning drinks like beer contain a lot of calories and can be high in sugar, both of which can lead to weight gain. While moderate, short-term consumption of alcohol is typically fine when used responsibly, long-term overuse and abuse of alcohol has been linked to more serious affects, like liver damage and memory loss.
And with a greater general societal awareness around what exactly people are choosing to put into their bodies, there’s an increased emphasis on healthy, natural substances. “More and more people are aware of their health, aware of what they’re putting in their bodies, aware of how bad things like sugar are for you and the toll it all takes on your system,” Rogen says. “People don’t like having hangovers and feeling terrible all day the day after they consume something; and I think that’s what’s exciting about our drinks is that they provide a very good alternative to alcohol and one that I personally have been looking for.”
And while Goldberg says the pandemic has prevented them—and consumers—from experiencing the beverages in full effect (i.e. in a social group setting), “you picture a room full of people drunk and a group full of people having had these beverages—which party would you want to go to?” (TBQH, the latter.)
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Houseplant beverages aren’t meant to be consumed like alcohol
And while cannabis beverages are being compared to alcoholic ones, the truth is that they’re very different from alcohol—in both their effect as well as how and when they’re consumed. While Rogen says that a lot of people have been looking to fit Houseplant Beverages into their lives in a similar way to alcohol, “[that’s] not how the product was designed.” In essence, cannabis beverages are meant to be more versatile and approachable. “It’s dependent on who the type of person is,” Goldberg says about the ideal situation for a Houseplant drink. “For some people it’s a home alone, doing laundry situation, for other people it’s more social. It’s really dependent on who you are.”
Which, Goldberg says, is one of the nice things about cannabis. “Alcohol has very specific occasions [and] specific places [it’s drank]; you have to make an excuse that this needs to be a treat because it’s terrible for you.” But with cannabis, he says, “it’s not a treat. It’s just something you can do, and you do it however you specifically want to.”
The stigma around cannabis use is steadily changing
Which is not a mentality that was once widely accepted. When Rogen and Goldberg first started making films, their pot-smoking characters were stigmatized both on and off screen, characterized as stoners and deadbeats (I mean, have you seen Knocked Up?). The duo have been working to normalize cannabis use both on-screen and off ever since; and especially in Canada, we’ve come a long way.
“There’s been a big change [but] there’s still a long way to go,” Rogen says of stigma around cannabis use. “Culturally, the idea that you are a lazy, unproductive person if you smoked weed is not nearly as prevalent as it was 10 or 15 years ago [and] I think people are more comfortable talking about the fact that they smoke weed.” Not to mention the fact that as countries like Canada federally legalize cannabis, it sends a message, “that it is not this evil thing that you’ve been told it was.”
But the October 2018 legalization of cannabis use in the country doesn’t mean buying cannabis is a walk in the park. While Houseplant Beverages can currently be purchased at select cannabis retailers across Canada, Goldberg and Rogen hope to see it one day stocked in liquor stores, and as easily accessible as alcohol. “I think that [cannabis] is currently is a lot harder to buy than alcohol, which I don’t think it should be,” Rogen says. “It’s a lot harder to educate people on it than it is alcohol, it’s a lot harder to speak about this in general than it is alcohol due to roadblocks that have been put up by some of the regulations. And I don’t think it’s helping anybody.”
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But there’s still a ways to go—and educating to be done
Despite the fact that stereotypes around smoking pot have largely changed since Rogen and Goldberg’s characters first graced the big screen, that doesn’t mean that some don’t remain. The next frontier in battling stigma around cannabis use is in regards to education. “There’s still a lot of fear over consumption or a bad experience with cannabis,” Davies says. “It’s very much this paint brush approach that ‘I don’t want to try that cause I might have a bad experience.'” It’s an assumption that Davies likens to assuming all alcohol is hardcore tequila.
Another area where stereotypes still run rampant? Women and cannabis. While the broader stigma around stoners has evolved over the past decade or so, once again, women get the short end of the stick—because they’re still stigmatized in certain ways for using it. A 2018 survey by Van der Pop, a cannabis lifestyle and accessory brand, in partnership with Canadian Viewpoint Inc., found that fear of societal judgement is the driving factor behind women hiding their cannabis usage, with 70% of women surveyed saying that they believe cannabis consumption carries a stigma (typically around the idea of “purity” as well as their capabilities as parents) and 72% saying they don’t want to be judged (in regards to their intelligence and decision-making capabilities). Per the study, 66% of the women surveyed who used cannabis said they hid their usage. “There’s always more pressure from society on us [and] expectations] of how a woman should act or be. A woman that really enjoys her cannabis is seen as more of a bad-ass or something versus a normal human that enjoys the benefits of cannabis,” Davies says.
“So you need to be able to talk about it,” she adds. “It’s not just distribution that we’re hoping gets better, it’s more communication [and] being able to educate people and normalize [cannabis use].”
Especially when it comes to criminal justice reform
It’s impossible to talk about cannabis use in Canada without touching upon the fact that, for years, in all of North America, certain demographics of people have been disproportionately persecuted (and punished) for cannabis possession and use. For example, a 2017 study by the Toronto Star found that Black people with no history of criminal convictions were three times more likely to be arrested by Toronto police for possession of small amounts of marijuana. And an investigation by Vice found that, before legalization, Black and Indigenous people in Canada were overrepresented in arrests for possession of weed. Which is why Rogen and Houseplant are so passionate about criminal justice reform.
“There’s a long way to go as far as acknowledging that cannabis was only illegal for antiquated, largely racist reasons,” Rogen says, “and that’s why we are where we are right now.” Which is why Houseplant and its founders are so adamant about spreading awareness, speaking to media about the double standards that exist when it comes to cannabis use. (A small tiny of related positive news: In last night’s U.S. election, five more states legalized marijuana—Mississippi, Montana, Arizona, South Dakota and New Jersey—and Oregon decriminalized possession of all drugs.)
For now, Houseplant is focusing on expanding into more flavours and toying with the idea of a slightly stronger drink. “We want it to be a certain type of experience and something that can be done at one’s own pace, but mostly right now we’re just focused on a few new flavours that will be simple and delightful,” Goldberg says.
And as for that infamous high school weed milk? Would Rogen and Goldberg ever consider making a foray into the dairy side of weed? The short answer, at least from the pair’s reaction, is probably not. “I think it would work, but that’s disgusting,” Goldberg says. Fair enough.