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Researchers Believe Legal Marijuana Could Hurt Beer Sales

Marijuana increasingly does look to be a gateway drug -- away from alcohol consumption.

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A new study has found that 27 percent of beer drinkers say they have already substituted marijuana for beer or would do so if recreational use became legal in their state.

Erik Wieder/EyeEm | Getty Images

The beer industry stands to lose about 7 percent of total sale -- worth $2 billion -- if marijuana becomes legal nationally, according to the study from the Cannabiz Consumer Group (C2G).

Of course, the odds of that happening anytime soon seem slim with the Trump Administration, which already has said it will enforce federal laws that still list cannabis as an illegal drug. They especially have seemed to target states where recreational use is legal. However, the study gives another glimpse into the growing popularity of marijuana.

“As legalization extends to additional states, either through medicinal or recreational legislation or both, C2G projects that legal cannabis penetration will settle at a level comparable to that of beer and wine and that a fully mature market would create a new $50 billion industry,” the company said in a statement.

Related: Cryptic Warnings From the Trump Administration Shake Recreational Marijuana Industry

Not a novelty.

In any business, a new product often will spike in sales as consumers give it a try. However, these high sales numbers often are not sustained.

This does not appear to be the case with legal cannabis. C2G reported that marijuana sales will impact not only beer consumption, but also purchases of wine and spirits. It also could affect sales at bars and pubs.

Part of the reason is that people are “invested” in marijuana products, according to C2G. That includes “understanding the potency, strains, and formats available and uses for pain management, holistic health, and relaxation.”

Related: 10 Cannabis Startups You Need to Watch

Larger study

The findings are part of a larger C2G study released in 2017 that looks at patterns of marijuana consumption and attitudes toward marijuana. Among the report’s findings:

  • 1 in 10 adults, about 29.5 million people, have purchased cannabis since California first legalized medical marijuana in 1996.
  • 40 percent of adults in states where recreational marijuana is not legal said they would buy cannabis if it became legal.
  • That means a consumer market of 90 million people who now either must have an illness or  travel to obtain a product they want.

The study results come from a survey of more than 40,000 people and more than 50 million cannabis transactions.

Marijuana already has impacted an activity traditionally associated with beer: tailgating at sporting events. In a piece for HBO Real Sports last year, Denver Broncos fans were interviewed while using cannabis in the parking lot before the game.

“I think it’s a little bit better than alcohol,” one fan said. “A lot of people are laid back. They’re not going to go and do anything crazy.”

He also said that security never questions or stops fans smoking marijuana.  “I remember back in the day they would walk down the parking lot and they would hassle you for smoking weed,” he said. “Not anymore.”

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