Although there has been a lot of debate over whether marijuana is hurting the alcohol industry, liquor sales are actually doing quite well in some states where weed is now legal for recreational use. It seems most hardcore drinkers are not switching to weed and, well, cannabis users typically do not have a voracious appetite for booze. Industry experts say they feel confident that their sliver of the inebriation culture would not suffer at all if cannabis were made legal at the federal level.
In Colorado, Oregon and Washington, it’s business as usual for the alcohol trade. In fact, hard liquor sales are actually up in those jurisdictions, according to the Distilled Spirits Council.
“At this point, we’ve seen no impact on spirit sales from legalized recreational marijuana,” said Chris Swonger, CEO for the council.
Even though sales on beer and wine seem to have taken a bit of a hit, there is no evidence that this is due to legal weed. Some of the latest data shows that these alcoholic beverages have been in a slump over the past decade, as liquor has been gaining market share.
The council studied the per-capita booze sales before and after marijuana legalization took hold in the three states. Hard liquor sales nearly doubled in all three during that time. Beer and wine show some mixed results. In some parts, sales increased, while others showed a decline. But marijuana has not laid them to waste.
“The trends in alcohol have been fairly consistent regardless of whether or not you have legalized recreational marijuana in a state or not,” David Ozgo, the council’s chief economist, told CNBC.
Wall Street analyst Vivien Azer, who has been a prominent voice for alcohol and cannabis trends for the past several years, argues that cheap beer is more at risk for losing out to weed than wine and spirits. She says legal pot is more likely to become a replacement for low-end brews because the majority of cannabis users are white males in the lower income bracket.
It is conceivable that marijuana could eventually take a bigger bite out of the alcohol industry, especially as more states move toward legalization. But for now, the concerns are minimal, the experts say.
Still, cannabis industry soldiers remain convinced that the alcohol trade has something to fear. They believe the trends just need time to enter into new territory.
“It’s a little early for people to say no impact,”said Canaccord Genuity managing director Bobby Burleson, “I think these things change very, very quickly with different generations and demographic groups coming into the consumption category.”
Meanwhile, the alcohol industry is mingling with marijuana in Canada, where marijuana went fully legal in October 2018. Several large alcohol firms are working to bring their version of a THC-infused beverage to market later this year. Perhaps the alcohol trade is not worried about weed because it knows it is going to take it over as soon as the U.S. government pulls the plug on prohibition.
Weed will just have to see.