Study: Alcohol Sales Decreased 15% in Counties with Legal Cannabis

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A new study suggests that monthly alcohol sales in U.S. counties where cannabis is legal for recreational use cumulatively dropped 15 percent. The researchers, from the University of Connecticut, Georgia State University, and Universidad del Pacifico in Lima, measured alcohol sales in states with legal cannabis access and compared them to alcohol sales in states without such programs.

“When disaggregating by beer and wine we find that legalization of medical marijuana had a negative effect on corresponding sales by as much as 13.8 and 16.2 percent, respectively.” – Helping Settle the Marijuana and Alcohol Debate: Evidence from Scanner Data.

The study considers a number of factors; controlling for “county economic conditions such as unemployment rate and median household income…total population, percentage of male and Hispanic population, and the share of population by age groups.”

While using scanner data doesn’t paint the whole picture – it doesn’t account for alcohol purchased at bars or otherwise outside of the retail industry and does “not strictly reflect the drinking behavior of the population” – the authors conclude that the study “does not suffer from underreporting issues of self-reported drinking behavior, commonly presented with surveys” and retail scanner data “offers a wider coverage as it contains sales for all products across U.S. counties.”

The authors note that the trend does not seem to be short-lived either, as reductions continued two years after the passage of adult-use laws.

At least one major alcohol distributor has taken notice. In October, Constellation Brands, which distributes Corona beer and Svedka vodka in the U.S., purchased a 9.9 percent stake in Canadian medical cannabis producer Canopy Growth Corp. for $191 million.

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