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Legalized Marijuana Has No Effect On Spirits Sales, Distilled Spirits Council Study Finds

January 10, 2019

A study from the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. found that legal recreational cannabis did not impact alcohol sales in Washington, Oregon, or Colorado, the three states where it has been available the longest. “There has been a lot of erroneous speculation on this subject since states began legalizing,” Council president and CEO Chris Swonger told SND. “But having run the numbers, we haven’t seen any decline in sales.”

The Distilled Spirits Council used total market tax or shipment data from the three western states to gather a clear picture of alcohol sales in the two years before recreational cannabis went legal. That data created a baseline against which to compare sales post-legalization.

Since recreational cannabis came online, sales of spirits have grown by between 3.6% and 7.6% in the states studied—rising 3.6% in Oregon, 5.4% in Washington, and 7.6% in Colorado—showing consistency with nationwide growth rates. Beer sales dropped by around 3% in all three states, but that result also mirrored the broader national market. Factoring in inconsistent findings on wine, total alcohol sales declined by 0.5% in Oregon since legalization, slipped 0.2% in Washington, and grew 1.7% in Colorado.

The Distilled Spirits Council says the beverage alcohol data collected in the legal-cannabis states tracks along with national trends, and demonstrates that alcohol and cannabis are not in competition with each other. In Washington State, for example, legal cannabis sales totaled $259 million in 2015, $786 million in 2016, and $1.3 billion in 2017, according to the state treasury. Growth on this scale—approximately 500% over a two-year period—would have produced much more than a -0.2% change in the beverage alcohol industry, were the two categories truly in competition, the Council concluded.—Danny Sullivan

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