States that choose to legalize cannabis have seen no impact on alcohol sales, according to a new study from analysts at investment firm Bernstein (note: the article is behind a paywall). Not only that, in some cases, beer sales have marginally gone up in states that have legalized.
Beer consumption has fallen in states where medicinal cannabis is legal on average 0.6 percent during the three years leading up to legalization. In the three years afterward, average sales rose by 0.1 percent.
The study’s authors acknowledge their analysis was based on a relatively small number of states over a few years but nevertheless concluded “that the legalization of medical marijuana had a positive impact on beer volume trends.” It went on to say that beer and cannabis “are complements rather than substitutes.”
Leafly examined the relationship between cannabis legalization and alcohol sales in September, in response to donations by the alcohol industry to opposition campaigns. Our findings were similar to those found by Bernstein—namely that ending cannabis prohibition didn’t hurt alcohol sales.
In Washington state, which legalized cannabis in 2012, tax revenue from beer, wine, and hard alcohol sales has increased steadily over the past three years. Beer tax revenue was $29.9 million in 2014, $30.7 million in 2015, and $31.4 million through October 2016.
Similar trends can be seen in Colorado. Despite notching more than $1 billion in sales in 2016, the state’s booming cannabis industry hasn’t hurt alcohol sales. Since 2011, two years before cannabis became legal in the state, alcohol tax revenue has grown steadily.
Not all studies have found the same result, however; another study released last week by the research firm Cowen & Co. concluded that the alcohol industry has underperformed in states where cannabis is now legal.
According to that study, domestic brewers such as Anheuser Busch-InBev and MillerCoors have seen the largest drops. Sales volume of premium brews like Coors Light and Bud Light have dipped by 4.4%, while economy brews like Budweiser or Coors dipped by 2.4%.
The study, however, ignores sales numbers from craft beer, which have exploded since 2011, breaking up friendships over which local IPA reigns supreme.