Marijuana Sales Haven’t Cannibalized Liquor Sales

Overall alcohol trends have remained steady in the three states where cannabis has been legal the longest.
January 11, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Legalizing marijuana hasn’t had an impact on liquor sales, according to a new study by the Distilled Spirits Council.
“Simply put, the data show there has been no impact on spirits sales from recreational marijuana legalization,” said Distilled Spirits Council Chief Economist David Ozgo, noting that examining tax data and actual shipments provides the most accurate insight into what is happening in the marketplace.
“We now have four years of retail recreational marijuana sales history in Colorado and Washington state, and three years in Oregon, and each of these markets remain robust for spirits sales,” Ozgo added.  He also noted that overall alcohol sales mirror national trends and there is no pattern of declining spirits sales in any of the markets analyzed.
“We did this study because there is a lot of misinformation circulating about the impact of recreational marijuana legalization on distilled spirits and the wider alcohol market,” Ozgo said.
The analysis shows that in Colorado, Washington state and Oregon, per capita spirits sales increased between 3.6% to 7.6% since recreational marijuana legalization went into effect. Additionally, there was no evidence that legal recreational marijuana has impacted total per capita alcohol sales. 
According to the data:

  • In the three states, per capita beer sales declined between -2.3% to -3.6%, but Ozgo noted this is consistent with the national trend in beer sales and is not isolated to just those states that have legalized marijuana sales. (Colorado down -3.6%; Washington down -2.3%; Oregon down -3.6%)
  • In the three states, per capita wine sales were mixed. (Colorado up 3.2%; Washington down -3.1%; Oregon up 0.7%)
  • In the three states, per capita total beverage alcohol sales (spirits, wine and beer) were roughly flat. These results are consistent with the national trend. (Colorado up 1.7%; Washington down -0.2%; Oregon down -0.5%)
The council notes that 10 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana:
  • Alaska (Approved Nov. 4, 2014; Sales began Oct. 29, 2016)
  • California (Approved Nov. 8, 2016; Sales began Jan. 1, 2018)
  • Colorado (Approved Nov. 6, 2012; Sales began Jan. 1, 2014)
  • Maine (Approved Nov. 8, 2016; sales date TBD)
  • Massachusetts (Approved Nov. 8, 2016; Sales began Nov. 20, 2018)
  • Michigan (Approved Nov. 6, 2018; Effective Dec. 2, 2018; sales date TBD)
  • Nevada (Approved Nov. 8, 2016; Sales began July 1, 2017)
  • Oregon (Approved Nov. 4, 2014; Sales began Oct. 1, 2015)
  • Vermont (Approved Jan. 22, 2018; Effective July 1, 2018, no retail sales allowed)
  • Washington state (Approved Nov. 6, 2012; Sales began July 8, 2014)
  • District of Columbia (Approved Nov. 4, 2014; Effective Feb. 26, 2015, no retail sales allowed)
Some states are considering legalizing recreational marijuana in 2019 including: Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.

Most recently, a marijuana ballot initiative passed in Michigan and failed in North Dakota.