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How Does Cannabis Affect Alcohol Sales?

Mell Green
Written by Mell Green

When cannabis laws started to become less strict in some states, it might’ve been expected to have some kind of negative effect on alcohol sales. Although that might’ve been the case early on, recent research suggests that cannabis is serving no effect on alcohol sales.

Back in January 2018, early research suggested that cannabis was linked to a 15% decrease in alcohol sales. The research was based on states that allow medicinal cannabis, looking at alcohol sales before and after the medical laws were established. The results were then compared to states where cannabis remains illegal.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Connecticut, Georgia State University, and Universidad del Pacifico, concluded that cannabis and alcohol are substitutes for each other. Those who are now switching to medicinal cannabis were reducing their alcohol consumption, leading to a 15% decrease in alcohol sales. Although there was a decrease, researchers found that the sample size was too small and that more data was needed before making any conclusions. The researchers were also interested to see how sales would be affected if laws were to allow cannabis recreationally.

One year later, a new study conducted by the Distilled Spirits Council shows that cannabis actually has no effect on alcohol sales. The study watched the three states where cannabis has been legal the longest — Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. Researchers analyzed per-capita alcohol sales over the two years prior to legalizing cannabis and four years after legalizing cannabis recreationally. As a result, the study showed that the sale of spirits, wine, and beer in Colorado was up by 1.7%, while Oregon was down 0.2% and Washington was down 0.5%.

Although those numbers come mixed, they also fall in line with trends in states where cannabis is illegal. The researchers concluded that alcohol sales have been consistent whether cannabis is legal or illegal. Furthermore, this recent study noted that earlier research — like the one above — produced different results because they relied on surveys for data or retail scanner data. The Distilled Spirits Council used actual shipment and receipt data, which seemingly gave researchers much more accurate data. To be specific, beer sales were down 2.3% in Washington and 3.6% in Colorado and Oregon. Wine sales were up 3.2% in Colorado, up 0.7% in Oregon, and down 3.1% in Washington. These results were consistent with national trends, even in states where cannabis is illegal.

With 10 states currently allowing recreational consumption of cannabis and 15 other states decriminalizing cannabis, it seems that the plant could continue becoming a more popular option as generations change. Younger generations are more susceptible to cannabis consumption, which could potentially mean a dip in alcohol sales in the near future. As of now, however, there doesn’t seem to be any connection between legalizing cannabis and alcohol sales.

Image Credit: Oregon Cannabis Connection

About the author

Mell Green

Mell Green

Mell is a published writer and advocate of the legal cannabis movement who’s dedicated to all things wellness. You can catch her work in a number of publications including Plant People, Cannabis.info, and the Weed Blog. She’s a proud volunteer of the National Hemp Association and enjoys consuming cannabis medicinally and recreationally.

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