No Buzzkill Here: Legal Marijuana Not Affecting Alcohol Sales (So Far)

No Buzzkill Here: Legal Marijuana Not Affecting Alcohol Sales (So Far)

(Ryan Dearth)

As the first states moved toward the legalization of marijuana, some in the booze business were concerned that having easier, legal access to pot would somehow encroach on alcohol sales. But in Colorado, where marijuana has been legal since the beginning of 2014, consumers are not giving up their wine and beer in favor of weed.

The Guardian points to the fact that Colorado’s tax revenue from alcohol has continued to grow in the year and a half since legalization. For the fiscal year 2015, alcohol excise taxes were up a total of 2.1% (the same increase as FY 2014), led by a 2.9% increase in tax revenue from distilled spirits.

At the same time, Colorado brought in more than $102 million in taxes and fees from marijuana for the year ending in May 2015, nearly triple the $34.85 million it raked in during the first fiscal year in which pot was legalized in the state.

Some alcohol companies have expressed concerns that consumers would choose marijuana over their alcohol of choice, and have been worried about the possible financial implications of legalization in additional states — or even nationwide.

On the flip side of that coin is the theory that increased access to marijuana will lead to more consumption of alcohol.

But the Colorado numbers seem to indicate that people in the state are drinking just as much as they were before legalization. One craft brewer in the state tells the Guardian that he doesn’t “think people are doubling down in one category or the other,” and that he’s seen “no demonstrable impact at all in terms of sales.”

This all comes with the caveat that we’re talking about less than two full years of data from only one state. It will be some time before we see whether those pre-legalization concerns were unwarranted, or if consumers are indeed making a choice of pot over alcohol.

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