- The Washington Times - Friday, January 11, 2019

Liquor sales in the first states to legalize recreational marijuana have not suffered since competing with retail pot, lobbyists for the alcohol industry reported Thursday.

The Distilled Spirits Council, a trade group representing several of the nation’s largest liquor makers and marketers, said an analysis of per capita alcohol sales, tax receipts and shipment data counters concerns raised by stakeholders about going up against legal weed.

“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,” said David Ozgo, the trade group’s chief economist.

“Simply put, the data show there has been no impact on spirits sales from recreational marijuana legalization,” Mr. Ozgo added.

Voters in Colorado and Washington passed ballot measures in 2012 legalizing recreational marijuana, and in 2014 they became the first and second states in the country to permit retail pot shops to operate, respectively. Oregonians followed suit in Nov. 2014, and dispensaries there started retail sales the following year.

Per capita spirit sales increased 3.6 percent in Oregon, 5.4 percent in Washington and 7.6 percent in Colorado in the years since marijuana dispensaries opened in those states, the trade group reported.

Overall, alcohol sales in each of the states were on par with nationwide trends, Mr. Ozgo added. Beer sales declined slightly in all of those states, albeit consistent with trends throughout the rest of the country, his report said. Wine sales were mixed, meanwhile, either barely up or down in each of the three states studied, according to the report.

“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,” Mr. Ozgo said.

Indeed, the growing number of states legalizing marijuana in the U.S. despite federal prohibition – in addition to the abolishment of anti-pot laws north of the border – have previously raised concerns among alcohol industry stakeholders including Molson Coors, one of the world’s largest beer brewers.

“Although the ultimate impact is currently unknown, the emergence of legal cannabis in certain U.S. states and Canada may result in a shift of discretionary income away from our products or a change in consumer preferences away from beer,” Molson Coors Brewing Co. wrote in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing in February 2018.

“As a result, a shift in consumer preferences away from our products or beer or a decline in the consumption of our products could result in a material adverse effect on our business and financial results,” Molson Coors predicted at the time.

More recently, Molson Coors announced in August 2018 that it reached a deal with a Canadian marijuana company “to pursue opportunities to develop non-alcoholic, cannabis-infused beverages for the Canadian market.”

A total of 10 states have passed laws legalizing recreational marijuana, including seven with systems in place permitting retail dispensaries to operate.

Canada legalized recreational marijuana sales in October.

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