Study: Alcohol Sales Fall Following Cannabis Legalization

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 1, 2017

    personal_cultivationSales of alcoholic beverages decline following the enactment of medical marijuana access laws, according to a working paper authored by a team of researchers from the University of Connecticut and Georgia State University.

    Authors evaluated the relationship between medical marijuana laws and retail alcohol sales for more than 2,000 US counties for the years 2006 to 2015. Alcohol sales trends in medical cannabis states were compared to sales trends in states where cannabis remained illegal. Researchers determined that counties located in medical cannabis states, on average, experienced a reduction in monthly alcohol sales of 15 percent.

    Researchers concluded: “We find that marijuana and alcohol are strong substitutes. … 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.”

    Consumer trend data from California reports that those with legal access to cannabis frequently reduce their alcohol intake. A 2016 analysis of beer sales in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington reported that retail sales “collectively underperformed” in the years following the enactment of adult use marijuana regulation.

    Full text of the study, “Helping settle the marijuana and alcohol debate: Evidence from scanner data,” appears online here.

    67 responses to “Study: Alcohol Sales Fall Following Cannabis Legalization”

    1. Dain Bramage says:

      Cannabis is safer than alcohol. Fact. Period. End of story. “But” Nuthin’!

      • Ashley says:


      • Mike larsen says:

        As an active recovering alcoholic I wish the would criminalize alcohol consumption as is the case with cannabis is here in Oklahoma because of its harmfulness to who become alcoholic about 1 third and decriminalize cannabis

      • Nathanael says:

        Practically everything is safer than alcohol, with the possible exception of tobacco.

        Heroin is safer than alcohol. Prescription opiates are MUCH safer than alcohol.

        Cannabis is safer than opiates for most people (the exception is people with genes predisposing them to schizophrenia, who are strongly contraindicated from cannabis)

      • JC says:

        I know lot’s of people that started drinking heavily after employment UA”S were implemented. If the ones in charge knew how many people smoked in the 80’s (even at work) with no problems they would have to change their underwear.

    2. Miles says:

      No surprise to me that people use less alcohol or quit altogether when given the option to legally use cannabis! If not for cannabis I am quite sure I would have a serious alcohol problem. Because of my cannabis use I have it under control.

      Those who say we don’t need another recreational drug are just plain wrong when the other recreational drug they are referring to is so much safer than what is currently available legally; i.e. tobacco and alcohol!

      • Mark Mitcham says:

        Well put, Miles. We DO need another recreational drug! A better one! And that drug is cannabis.

      • Nathanael says:

        Alcohol and tobacco are the two MOST UNSAFE recreational drugs out there.

        It’s actually hard to think of drugs which are worse, except for sniffing glue.

        It’s really messed up that those two are the legal ones.

        But prohibition of alcohol didn’t work, and backfired. So if we have to make alcohol legal, then everything safer than alcohol should be legal. Which is practically everything.

        • Nathanael says:

          People who drink alcohol regularly become *violent* and *attack other people*. While this isn’t everyone who drinks alcohol, I’m hard pressed to find another drug which *routinely* causes users to commit acts of violence.

    3. Danny J Brunskill says:


    4. Mark Mitcham says:

      Sales “Underperformed?” To my ear, the word suggests a sense of entitlement.

      There’s the corporation, and then there’s the customer. You have to ask: “Who’s here to serve who?”

      I’ve had turned upside down my naive beliefs about the nature of our social contracts with the institutions in our society. As the Republican tax heist in Congress illustrates, Corporations, and their puppets in Congress, don’t give a flying fuck about ordinary people, except as a class of suckers to be exploited in every way possible.

      Ever hear the phrase “Consumer choice?” Okay, let’s do that! Let’s legalize marijuana!

    5. toby keith says:

      The answer to would you rather!

    6. Matt says:

      This is great to hear, as marijuana may also help alcoholics.

      Medical marijuana begins in Maryland:


      • saferinneworleans says:

        Marijuana is definitely helping alcoholics drink less or quit drinking altogether, including here in New Orleans. Marijuana is safer than alcohol for everyone, but especially if you are an alcoholic. There is a book by an alcoholic who quit drinking using marijuana – called The Pot Plan – available at Google Books – https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Pot_Plan_Louie_B_Stumblin_and_the_Wa.html?id=o9T5SwXNFE0C

        If every alcoholic gave up drinking for weed this world would be a safer place.

        • Mark Mitcham says:

          @ saferinneworleans,
          Well, I agree with you on that point.
          It’s just a shame and a tragedy that so many damn fools (like you, by your own admission) continue to support Trump and Sessions, who oppose all drugs, and are ramping up the Drug War again, even as we speak. So, despite the noble sentiments you express, you’re really of no help whatsoever!
          In other words, Fuck Trump.
          Wouldn’t you agree?

    7. Mike I says:

      Call it substitute if you want but cannabis has therapeutic results. Cannabis has no toxicity level. Govt has no business regulating cannabis.

    8. Julian says:

      I have used marijuana to moderate my alcohol consumption my entire adult life. Here is what the results are:

      I consume less alcohol privately when I have access to marijuana. Because marijuana is illegal in my state of Texas, or because their are children in social gatherings (and I don’t like vaping, I enjoy smoking marijuana), I tend to consume more alcohol in social gatherings.

      And it’s really that simple. If I had no access to marijuana for long periods of time I suppose I would drink too much. But with good, whole plant marijuana in my life I find myself searching for less, better quality beer. Goodbye Natural Light. Hello Craft brewed blonde ale. The better the weed, the better the beer; and I require less of it to achieve relaxation.

      The alcohol industry has long caused marijuana legalization grief and political trouble, but thats changing. During last year’s elections we laughed as the liquor board in Nevada tried to delay and reduce supplies of legal mj, then got overruled by a judge and the state legislature. That marked a tipping point in the pint of power.

      Now big alcohol is saying “If you can’t beat’m, join’m,” as marijuana infused alcoholic beverages are being marketed as we write. To that, I say “Salud.” I may not drink marijuana that often, but when I do, it better not be a fruity wine cooler.

      • Anonymous1 says:

        Back in my youth I used to experiment with both. Spirits, ales, malt liquors, it didn’t matter. If I could afford it, down the hatch it went. Now that I grew up and matured a bit, I don’t drink or smoke by choice. Smoking reminds me of being horribly sick, but I used to love the feeling of euphoria. Now I can’t stand it.

        • Julian says:

          Lol… Larry David… is that you?

        • Dain Bramage says:

          @ Anonymous1,

          But you made that choice for yourself, in either case. And you should indeed have that freedom, the freedom to decide for yourself what does, and what doesn’t, go into your own body.

          To your credit, in your comment, you never suggested that other people should not smoke pot just because you yourself decided to quit.

          And that in turn suggests that you understand that the very same freedom to choose which you enjoyed should also extend to others.

          But that cannot happen under marijuana prohibition. No one should be arrested for making either of the choices you made.

          Legalize it!

          • Evening Bud says:

            I was a hard-core drinker for over 20 years, ages 16 through my late 30s, and in my later teens began toking as well. I’ve mentioned it here before, that I must’ve been allergic to alcohol because my hangovers were always worse than everyone else’s and my headaches just got worse with each year. It finally got the point where my headaches would begin while I was still drinking.

            So, since I do no other drugs, pot has been a godsend for me. I love its effects, love its mood-enhancing, etc.

            Alcohol helped me a lot in social situations; and I always loved the taste of beer. Other than that, I don’t miss alcohol at all. Besides, I don’t do any more of the stupid things I used to do when I was drunk.

            • Mark Mitcham says:

              I quit drinking in 1991. And it was a profound insight for me when I realized a concept that I got from AA, which was that my physical response to alcohol in my system was similar to an allergy.

              I can no more control my response to alcohol after drinking, than can a person allergic to strawberries stop the hives and welts after eating strawberries.

              What this means, when you understand it fully, is that all the horrible things I said and did while drinking, while they were still my blame and my responsibility, they were not, as they might appear to be to everybody including myself, a reflection of a low moral character, or a weakness of willpower.

              It’s not my fault, in other words, that I inherited this biological response to alcohol. But it is still my problem. It is still my responsibility. That may not be fair, but it is true.

              I don’t drink. If I was allergic to strawberries, I wouldn’t eat those, either. But since alcohol is considered a social norm in USA, those who don’t drink, or who cannot control their drinking, are viewed as moral defectives.

              That used to bother me; but now that I understand that alcohol affects me like an allergy, I no longer give a shit about what other folks think about my choices. I don’t need the approval of the clueless. I try to educate them, instead.

            • Evening Bud says:

              It took me years to realize I was probably allergic to alcohol. When I learned afterwards that my mother and one of her brothers similarly got bad headaches when they drank, it confirmed my suspicions. Got an anti-alcohol gene in there.

      • mexweed says:

        Thanks for bringing up the MICRODOSE issue– “less, better quality beer”. An affirmative microdose law could take the form of requiring any retailer who sells any alcohol to provide– and advertise– a 2-ounce airliner-bottle version of each beverage, yes, even beer, even wine. Carry it in your pocket, when warranted take a sip, swish it around magnificently before swallowing.
        True, this leads to mentioning the microdose version of cannabis– flexdrawtube oneheater with 1/4-inch-diameter screened socketwrench crater for 25-mgt sifted her4b loadings.
        “I don’t like vaping, I enjoy smoking marijuana…”
        Rest easy, the flex oneheater is a hybrid utensil! Let the budload start glowing a few seconds later, after heatbathing has liberated most of the cannabinoid treasure in vapor form, and get that delicious cellulose taste reminder you enjoy (also don’t forget to poke the ashes with your two-inch safety-pinmaintenance-utensil, suck them out and deliciously grind with tongue against palate.

        • Mark Mitcham says:

          Mexweed is right. If you care about your health at all, QUIT TOBACCO! Do it NOW. It is THE WORST DRUG OF ALL.

          Leave it behind. I promise you, solemnly and personally, you will not regret it!!

          • Mark Mitcham says:

            (This reply is in error, and was intended for Mexweed’s comments about tobacco, below.)

            Essentially, Tobacco: very bad for you. Cannabis: very good for good.

      • Victor says:

        I feel similar Julian. My alcohol consumption plummets like a rock off a cliff. I much prefer it this way, especially as my work tends to require a clear head, which is something I just don’t have when I drink.

        I think given a choice between the two, more often than not, folks will steer clear of the liquor cabinet and apparently we now have the numbers to prove it.

    9. Judy says:

      It seems like the Republican majority congress (The GOP) places more importance on money than they do on the Americans they are supposed to represent. I am sure that wealthy donors want their puppets to keep cannabis illegal since it would affect their profits. These donors would include the alcohol and pharmaceutical industries, private prisons, law enforcement, and drug testing companies.

      It is because the Republicans (the majority of them), and maybe some Democrats, have basically chosen getting more dollars over the welfare of America and it’s citizens.

      I would say it is time to drain the swamp which is what Trump said he would do and maybe he did because the group of people he has around him seem to be from the bottom of it! Good ol’ boy Jeffrey Sessions is a perfect example of finding a piece of filth at the bottom of that swamp.

      • Evening Bud says:

        GOPers have unabashedly chosen their corporate bosses over everyone else–even in the matter of MJ legalization. Corporate Dems are nearly as bad–and must be weeded out of the party.

    10. Brandon of Boone says:

      I’ve always consumed them both at the same time.

      • Julian says:

        I just got a visual on a mj infused beer bong straw…

      • Mark Mitcham says:

        It’s reefer-madness standard operating procedure to blame marijuana use for the harmful effects and results of alcohol use. (Or other drugs.)

        This has been an issue with respect to cannabis clubs in Denver. (Which were approved by the voters a long time ago, and I am still waiting, by the way. WTF?) The question: should cannabis clubs serve alcohol? Many, including myself, say “no.” We don’t want the problems that come with a bar, and we don’t want the political blame and scapegoating, for those problems.

        Politically speaking, I would be wary of cannabis-infused alcoholic beverages, for the same reason.

        • mexweed says:

          The Number #1 harmful drug whose/whats effects are routinely blamed on marijuana– and on tobacckgo too– is… ready?– CARBON MONOXIDE as presented* in paper-wrapped hot burning overdose format–witness “colloquial” stereotype labels “dope”, “pot” etc.
          Compromise solution: permit alcohol at cannabis club but ONLY in microdose airliner bottle format, one per customer. Permit $moking but only in 25-mg-serving-size oneheaters (and lots of illustrated posters informing how to Vape therewith instead of $moke– Easy-Learn, Heat-not-Burn Vapetoke Technique).
          *It was known by the ’70’s that “sidestream smoke” (directly into air instead of mainstream or second-hand) contains 5 times as much monoxide as mainstream (inhaled from butt end or filter tip).

          • Mark Mitcham says:

            Mexweed is right! (I am in error, I just put my reply on the wrong comment, above. See above comment regarding tobacco: AND QUIT TOBACCO!)