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Is Marijuana a Threat to Alcohol Sales?

April 24, 2017 – According to recently released research in California, when it comes to recreational drugs, marijuana is quite popular as a substitute for alcohol among millennials.  Last November, California voted to legalize marijuana meaning that adults over the age of 21 can now use, possess and share cannabis, as well as grow it at home.

Monocle Research conducted the survey for OutCo, a Southern California-based fully vertical cannabis company.  According to a press release, 51 percent of millennials say they will replace alcohol with marijuana.  By category, it breaks down as 34 percent of beer drinkers will switch; 18 percent of wine drinkers; and just 14 percent of spirits drinkers will opt for cannabis over alcohol.  The number of people surveyed was not disclosed. The study further shows that one in five Generation Xers will be substituting marijuana for alcohol, as will 8% of baby boomers.

Safety, cost and health are the main reasons given for replacing alcohol with marijuana.  Comments from respondents quoted in the research such as “drinking alcohol leaves you with a daylong hangover but pot leaves you feeling healthy” are not encouraging.  A person with a daylong hangover sounds like a person with a problem, like a stoner perhaps?

Another argument for pot concerned fear of making poor decisions when consuming alcohol, such as driving over the legal limit.  Is the implication that it is safe to smoke weed then drive?  DUIs include driving under the influence of drugs of all kinds.

The California Highway Patrol anticipates an uptick in impaired driving.  As far back as 2012, Matt Olson, CHP Captain in the Santa Cruz area told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that “…..marijuana-impaired drivers have also caused 70 percent of our local roadway fatalities so far this year.”  The Highway Patrol will be receiving $15 million over five years to train its officers in techniques to detect impaired driving and to establish statewide protocols and standards for identifying impaired drivers.

As the research indicates, 34 percent switching from beer to marijuana has had a dampening effect of beer sales in states where marijuana has been legalized.   According to Business Insider, in 2016 beer volumes dropped roughly 2% in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, which have all legalized recreational pot.  The brands suffering the most are the major players such as Anheuser-Busch and Molson Coors.  Craft beers are affected to a lesser extent.

When it comes to wine, it seems that the cannabis plant flourishes in the same locations as vines and would be more lucrative than growing wine grapes.  But don’t expect to see vineyards being ripped out any time soon.  There are a lot of restrictions on commercially grown marijuana, including chemical use, at least in California.  Where the laws will be in the next five to 10 years is anyone’s guess.

However one winemaker isn’t wasting any time.  Chip Forsythe of the aptly named Rebel Coast Winery in Sonoma, has already sold his first batch of cannabis wine.  Called Cloud Colony, it is a sauvignon blanc infused with marijuana.  This is achieved by heating the flowers of the marijuana plant to activate the THC then immerse them in the fermenting wine for three to five days.  The result is supposed to be a wine that tastes like wine but has a cannabis nose.  The first release at $69 a bottle sold out and there is a waiting list.   Wasn’t there something in that Monocle Research report about cost being a reason to switch from alcohol to pot?