One study that was carried out by the Distilled Spirits Council showed that alcohol sales in states that had legalized recreational weed did not dwindle in 2018. his was unexpected and critics have argued that it is still too early to judge.
As of September 2019, the following 11 states had legalized the consumption of weed recreationally by adults above the age of 21:
- Washington State
- District of Colombia
This means that adults in these states are free to consume weed as they would alcohol, only with a few more restrictions. The assumption has been that some people may drop alcohol and take up smoking weed as their recreational habit. Since cannabis can be cultivated at home, it can be a cheaper alternative to alcohol and it can provide psychedelic effects that may be desirable to recreational users. However, one study has shown that this is not the case if anything alcohol sales have continued to soar.
The study mentioned above covered 3 states and was titled: “Analysis: Impact of Retail Marijuana Legalization on Alcohol Sales in Colorado, Washington state and Oregon.} The study, conducted by the distilled spirits council, revealed the following findings:
- Overall industry trends remained consistent.
- Spirits sales increased in the three states. The percentage increase was from 3.6 percent in Oregon to 7.6 percent in Colorado.However, wine and beer sales dipped slightly, which was consistent with patterns observed in previous years.
- Sales of spirits and wine continued in the same trend that had been observed in previous years. In Oregon, sales increased by 1.7% while in Washington State and Oregon the sales declined by less than 0.5%.
According to David Ozgo, the chief economist of the council, “The trends in alcohol have been fairly consistent regardless of whether or not you have legalized recreational marijuana in a state or not.”
Low-end beer sales are most likely to be affected by the legalization of recreational cannabis; this is because the current demographics of pot smokers are of the lower socio-economic class. Spirits and wine are reserved for the higher socio-economic classes and therefore less likely to be affected by the legalization of weed. But again, as cannabis becomes gains social acceptance we may witness a demographical change in the consumers of weed.
Weed Versus Alcohol, Is One A Lesser Evil?
There are a couple of reasons why there was an expectation of alcohol sales plummeting with the legalization of cannabis. This had to do with comparisons being made between the two: which one is the lesser evil. The former President, Barrack Obama, admitted to smoking pot when he was much younger. In an interview with The New Yorker magazine he is quoted saying:
“As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life,”
This hugely contributed to the debate on which substance is safer. Marijuana supporters have often used this comparison to push for the legalization of weed. However, it still remains difficult to give an accurate comparison of the two compounds.
To begin with, marijuana is illegal under federal law while alcohol is not; this particular fact has hampered research into the long-term effects of cannabis.
Alcohol consumption has been linked to 88,000 deaths per year, according to the CDC. This makes alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the US, following tobacco and poor diet. Deaths directly linked to cannabis consumption are either hard to come by or non-existent.
From a science point of view, binge drinking on alcohol can cause death due to alcohol toxicity in the brain. Marijuana, on the other hand, can depress the cardiovascular system and in turn affect heart rate and blood pressure. However, a person can’t fatally overdose on weed.
Also, alcohol is more likely to interact with other drugs and cause adverse reactions. This means that for people taking drugs it may be safer to take marijuana alongside as opposed to alcohol, even though both substances pose a risk of adverse interaction.
Consuming Marijuana Has Benefits, Alcohol Does Not
It’s been reported that moderate consumption of alcohol could help improve cardiovascular health. This must be the origin of the popular belief; a glass of wine a day is good for your heart. That said, it can be difficult to draw the line between just enough and too much. Moreover, there has been no clear evidence supporting the therapeutic benefits of alcohol consumption in the long-term. An article published in the Mayo Clinic weighed the risks versus potential benefits of alcohol consumption. The conclusion was that for non-drinkers it was better to keep off alcohol because the risks outweigh potential benefits.
Given that 33 states have legalized medicinal cannabis, it is clear that there must be some therapeutic benefits that come with cannabis consumption. Preliminary evidence has shown that cannabis may be useful in the treatment of:
- Lack of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
Even as we wait for larger studies to confirm the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, we can assert that cannabis offers more benefits while causing less severe adverse effects as compared to alcohol.
- Distilled spirits council (2019): Analysis: Impact of Retail Marijuana Legalization on Alcohol Sales in Colorado, Washington state, and Oregon. Retrieved from https://www.distilledspirits.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Recreational-Marijuana-Impact-Study.pdf
- NIH: Alcohol facts and statistics. Retrieved from ttps://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
- Mayo Clinic: Nutrition and Healthy Living. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/alcohol/art-20044551