Vancouver Sun

Legal pot gives buzz to beer sales


Beer has no need to fear weed. The legalizati­on of medical marijuana has helped beer sales, contrary to previous research that pointed to a decline, according to a note from Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Trevor Stirling. Recreation­al pot use in Colorado and Washington, the two states where it’s legal, has so far not had a “significan­t impact” on beer, he said.

“The average blue- collar Bud drinker is less likely to be smoking pot,” Stirling said. “As far as medical marijuana is concerned, it does not appear to be a big threat to the beer industry.”

The research could relieve one concern for beermakers Anheuser- Busch InBev NV and SABMiller Plc, which have seen U. S. volume decline over the past five years due to high unemployme­nt and a shift to spirits like bourbon and gin. Twenty- three states have allowed medical marijuana and about a dozen, from Florida to Alaska, are considerin­g legalizati­on in some form.

Per capita beer drinking had a onetime increase of about 0.5 per cent in the 10 largest states that have legalized medical marijuana, the Bernstein analyst found. While beer consumptio­n later declined in those states, the rate of decline slowed to become more in line with the national average.

“There may be a ‘ constraine­d budget’ effect for some consumers, but legalized recreation­al weed is likely to lead to lower prices in the long term, potentiall­y freeing up more cash either for more weed or more beer,” Stirling said.

Bernstein’s research contrasts with an October 2012 study by professors at Montana State University, the University of Oregon and the University of Colorado Denver. It found that alcohol sales declined about five per cent in states that legalized medical marijuana, “suggesting that marijuana and alcohol are substitute­s,” especially among young adults, the authors said.

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