One of the questions that has come up frequently with the spread of marijuana legalization is whether a switch from alcohol will affect alcohol sales.
One analyst thinks she has the answer. And it’s not one the alcohol industry might want to hear.
The Switch From Alcohol
Vivien Azer of the investment firm Cowen recently told CNBC that she expects marijuana sales to continue soaring, taking away some of the business from alcohol. She put it this way: “We view the interaction with alcohol as being the most obvious to us as we think of these products as substitute social lubricants.”
That’s a fancy way of saying that people might prefer reaching for cannabis rather alcohol when they want to relax and socialize.
Binge Drinking Down
As part of her research, Azer said she discovered numbers that showed binge drinking rates are significantly lower in states where adults can legally buy recreational marijuana. That’s a good thing for many reasons, including health.
She also said that about 80 percent of those who use marijuana report some reduction in their consumption of alcohol.
She also projects the legal cannabis market will reach a staggering $75 billion in the United States by 2030. That’s partly because of the growing acceptance. An often-quoted October 2017 Gallup poll found that more Americans than ever – about 64 percent – favor legalizing marijuana.
Others have found the same correlation to less alcohol sales in states where marijuana is legal. In December 2017, a paper from researchers at the University of Connecticut and Georgia State University found that alcohol sales have fallen in states where marijuana is legal.
Marijuana vs. Alcohol
There are some straightforward reasons why people might switch from alcohol to cannabis, and you don’t need a scientist or financial analyst to explain them.
Marijuana does not lead to weight gain like alcohol can
- A tad too much cannabis will likely make you fall asleep, whereas alcohol might make you black out and not remember what happened
- Alcohol is often associated with violent behavior. Marijuana is not.
- There’s no hangover with marijuana
- Alcohol is addictive. Most research indicates marijuana isn’t
For many of those reasons, marijuana represents a safer and calorie-free way to unwind after a long day of work. Organizations such as the Marijuana Policy Project have seized on that fact, arguing that the federal government should consider marijuana as safer than alcohol.
The U.S. government certainly hasn’t reached that point. But for the cannabis curious in states where recreational marijuana is legal, they now have a different choice for “happy hour.” And many of them are taking advantage of it.