As marijuana becomes increasingly legalized, alcohol companies have voiced concerns that people will want to toke up instead of get sloshed. But newly released data from Bernstein, an investment firm, reveals that there’s nothing to get paranoid about: Beer sales have not been directly affected by the proliferation of weed.
This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. A 2015 review of 750 studies by the University of Washington found that people consume alcohol or marijuana depending on what the final goal was. Sometimes people drink to complement their usage with a drag of pot. And sometimes people just want to be under the influence; whether it’s by alcohol or weed doesn’t necessarily matter, making one the substitute of the other. In fact, after marijuana was legalized in Colorado, alcohol businesses reported “phenomenal growth” in sales.
Bernstein focused only on beer. But the firm found that beer sales on average rose by 0.1 percent over the course of three years in states where marijuana is legal. The analysts told The Guardian they suspected a fall in the price for marijuana, spurred by legalization, could partly explain why there’s been no drop — why choose one when you can afford both?
Weed and booze serve fundamentally different roles, and consumers know that. A study published in 2000 in Addictive Behaviors found that people were more likely to use alcohol than marijuana to be social and more likely to use marijuana to enhance their sense of well-being.
More often than not, people are smoking and drinking at the same time. A 2015 review of 8,626 Americans found that overwhelmingly, people who use both substances tend to use them at the same time. If anything, marijuana helps alcohol sales — this study found that simultaneous use also increased how often and how much people drank.
As acceptance of marijuana grows, we’ll need to study the motivations behind drinking and smoking. The vast majority of studies are focused on the ill effects of either, not why people actually want to use which substance.