As cannabis legalization continues to spread across the United States, alcohol consumption rates continue to drop, new research suggests. New research from investment firm Cowen & Co, research company Grand View Research and a consumer poll found binge drinking has fallen nine percent below the national average in states with legalized recreational cannabis. Excessive drinking is also 11 percent lower in legal states compared to states where recreational cannabis is still illegal. A previous study showed alcohol sales dropped almost 15 percent in states with legal medical cannabis.
Washington officials reported last year that 15.6 percent of adults said they had four or more drinks in one sitting—the threshold for binge drinking—on one occasion in the past month, which is lower than the national average of 17.4 percent. The number of U.S. college students who drank alcohol daily was halved, from 4.3 percent in 2016 to 2.2 percent in 2017.
Newly added legal cannabis states such as California and Nevada still have higher rates of alcohol consumption and lower rates of cannabis consumption, but California has an illegal market that surpasses its legal market due to taxes and licensing fees.
“Cannabis presents substantial opportunities across consumer industries, including new occasions that alcohol cannot and will not play,” Jessica Lukas, vice president of BDS Analytics, said. “Consumers will continue to look to cannabis products over alcohol for occasions when they are feeling creative, need to get motivated, or seeking health, medical or wellness benefits.”
Cannabis has long been seen as an alternative to alcohol, and experts have predicted that cannabis sales will have a major impact on alcohol sales. Many millennials have said they prefer cannabis to alcohol due to it being cheaper and not causing the intoxicating effects and hangovers caused by alcohol. A majority of the 55 million cannabis users in the U.S. are millennials. Binge drinking rates are expected to continue dropping as more states legalize cannabis.