US counties with legalized medical marijuana show decrease in alcohol sales

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

Areas where medical marijuana is legal experienced lowered monthly alcohol sales over a nine-year period, according to a new study. ©GettyImages/Darren415
Areas where medical marijuana is legal experienced lowered monthly alcohol sales over a nine-year period, according to a new study. ©GettyImages/Darren415
A study by researchers from the University of Connecticut and Georgia State University have found that counties located in legalized medical marijuana states reported a 15% decrease in monthly alcohol sales between 2006 and 2015.

“States legalizing medical marijuana use experience significant decreases in the aggregate sale of alcohol, beer and wine. Moreover, the effects are not short-lived, with significant reductions observed up to 24 months after the passage of the law,”​ researchers wrote.

Researchers aggregated and analyzed sales data of alcohol beverage purchases from grocery, convenience, and drug sales channels in 2,000 counties with medical marijuana laws over the nine-year period.

When separating beer and wine sales data, areas with legalized medical marijuana saw corresponding monthly sales drops of 13.8% and 16.2%, respectively.

“We find that marijuana and alcohol are strong substitutes,”​ the researchers wrote.

“We believe that the implications of our findings … help settle the debate on the type of relationship between alcohol and marijuana,”​ they said.

“But more importantly, because they address concerns about the potential spillover effects of medical marijuana laws on use of other substances that might contribute to negative health and social outcomes as the relationship between these substances is an important public health issue.”

Should the alcohol industry be concerned?

The spread of legalized cannabis in the US has sparked discussions among the alcohol industry with some embracing the drug’s growth or resisting it.

Constellation Brands acquired a minority stake in Canopy Growth Corp.​ as part of its “long-term strategy to identify, meet and stay ahead of evolving consumer trends and market dynamics, while maintaining focus on its core total beverage alcohol business.”

Investments like this are a wise decision according to Euromonitor senior alcoholic drinks analyst Spiros Malandrakis.

“The ‘green tide’ so to speak is rising and it’s inescapable at this stage,”​​ Malandrakis previously told BeverageDaily.

“I believe that attempts to try to derail this process or even more so to stop it are more or less doomed to failure and very short sighted.”​​

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