In a 2000 episode of the NBC sitcom Frasier, the title character and his brother Niles have a dramatic, wine club taste-off in the battle to be named Corkmaster. They pompously swill and spit vintage after vintage, before the contest is finally decided by a Napa Valley blend that’s forty-five percent Cabernet and fifty-five percent Merlot.

Set thirty years in the future, will we be more likely to see snobby characters engaging in a different kind of high society? Could “indica or sativa” replace “Cabernet or Merlot”?

With the 2015 election of Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister, the legalization of cannabis in Canada is coming, and medical marijuana dispensaries in some provinces are already making legal weed purchases a breeze. While entrepreneurs and economists are giddy over the idea that world-renowned B.C. bud will make Canada a prime destination for pot tourism, the increasing mainstream acceptance of cannabis has implications beyond matters of economy and law.

Pilcrow Indica
Grape Kush, Indica-4” by Dank Depot—CC BY 2.0

Pot culture certainly isn’t new, but it’s undergoing a transformation. In popular culture from the last forty years, marijuana usage has equalled stoner humour. Movies like Up In Smoke, Half Baked, and Pineapple Express show weed as fun and entertaining, but ultimately silly and immature. Pot spent years as the slightly counterculture equivalent to chugging beer at a tailgate party, while wine continues to be a symbol of refinement and higher culture. But as cannabis use becomes more socially accepted, we’re realizing that it exists beyond the simplified caricature of the stereotypical stoner.

One of the main reasons for this shift is that weed is starting to be seen as another complex consumable that can be studied and admired by aficionados. Whether you blame it on hipster pretension or not, North American trends lean towards carefully crafted products that inspire their consumers to feel like connoisseurs. Beer drinkers are sipping craft brews with labels that boast about flavour notes, foods are certified organic or gluten free, and cannabis users in increasing numbers are choosing their pot from dispensaries with a wide selection of strains available.

Weed may be starting to emulate wine in terms of sophistication, but it’s doing the opposite when it comes to price.

Walk into one of the many medical dispensaries in Vancouver, and you’ll see glass jars full of green nuggets from a variety of plant strains, each with its own name, flavour profile, and effects. Choose between Northern Lights, a pure indica that helps with stress management and pain relief, or Moby Dick, a citrusy sativa with high THC content and euphoric effects. Dispensary staff are themselves cannabis enthusiasts who provide thoughtful recommendations based on their own experiences, and happily open jars for patrons to smell the various bouquets.

Weed may be starting to emulate wine in terms of sophistication, but it’s doing the opposite when it comes to price. In a January 2013 report from BevSupport, a large number of Canadian Millennials stated that price was the most influential factor when it came to selecting a wine. The availability of budget wines make it easy to taste a number of offerings while never spending more than $20 on a bottle, but if money is a limiting factor there’s certainly a feeling that you aren’t getting the full wine drinking experience. Our cultural perception is still that expensive wines tastes better. On the flip side, marijuana prices are fairly uniform between strains, eliminating the idea that you need to have money to get the good stuff.

Pilcrow Wine
Wine” by Brendan DeBrincat—CC BY 2.0

For ardent lovers of both wine and weed there’s a growing interest in how the two can go together, evidenced by the online presence of wine and weed pairing guides, and pot tourism in states like Colorado, where companies like Cultivating Spirits offer up gourmet dinners complete with wine and cannabis pairings.

Will weed culture ever replace wine culture? At this point, the future is hazy. The CBC recently reported on a poll conducted by Forum Research, where 18 per cent of those polled had used pot within the past twelve months, but more than 30 percent said they would use if the drug were legalized, suggesting that weed enthusiasm is poised to gain a larger following when the final smudges of illegality are wiped away.

Whether weed ever usurps wine as the quintessential symbol of class and sophistication, cannabis enthusiasm seems to be settling nicely into its own place as an accepted and respected pursuit.