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Will Legalizing Weed Really Affect Craft Beer Sales? Maybe Not.

If you can walk into a dispensary and spend $15 to legally smoke a drug that mellows you out—without the potentially aggressive, creepy behavior or hangovers associated with alcohol—then why buy beer?
Photo via Flickr user Jon Åslund

A few years ago, as several states inched closer to legalizing marijuana, the beer industry began to worry about how weed would affect sales—and rightfully so.

If you can walk into a dispensary and spend $15 to legally smoke a drug that mellows you out but without the potentially aggressive, creepy behavior or hangovers associated with alcohol, then why buy beer?

People are just looking for a cheap and cheerful way to disconnect momentarily from the drudge and stress of everyday life, and maybe weed can do that in a lower-risk manner. No hangovers. No DUIs. So, it's a no-brainer, right—more weed means less beer?


Wrong. Given how much money is at stake with the legalization of weed, it's not surprising that investment firms are keeping a close eye on how this market evolves. One of those firms, Bernstein, just published a report which suggests that legal marijuana is not making a huge dent in beer sales, and could actually be helping the beer industry.

Titled "Weekend Consumer Blast: Beer & Weed revisited," the market research suggests that while legalization may have negatively affected beer sales early on, it turns out the weed and beer remain that classical pairing that they always have been.

READ MORE: Should We Really Blame Weed Legalization for Declining Beer Sales?

"In the three years [before] legalization, per capita beer consumption was falling one percentage point faster than the national average," the report states. "But in the 3 years after, per capita consumption trends were broadly in-line with the national average."

So, what does this all mean? Essentially, the Bernstein report, in which ten analysts looked at broad market trends and data, confirms that beer sales are up and are growing in concert with legal cannabis consumption.

"If anything, our analysis indicates that the legalization of medical marijuana had a positive impact on beer volume trends," authors found, adding that weed and beer "are more complements than substitutes.

The report also goes on to specify that craft breweries have the most to gain here, which is not exactly surprising considering that pretty much every dude who geeks out about over double IPAs also geeks out over weed strains.

"Many industry observers point to the similarities of the craft beer and cannabis cultures and feel that legalizing weed could help craft beer grow sales while eating into the larger brewers' market share. It isn't surprising that the states with the highest share of craft beers also tend to be the more liberal states, where recreational or medical marijuana is likely already legal," the study says, citing states like Colorado, Washington, and Oregon.

And while we're on the topic of stoner stereotypes, Bernstein analysts concluded their analysis with a look toward the restaurant industry. "Finally, while the jury may be out on the impact on beer consumption, other beneficiaries could include: Chipotle (CMG), Dominos Pizza (DPZ), Frito Lay (PEP) and Pizza Hut/Taco Bell (YUM)." Cuz who would have guessed that stoners like pizza and burritos?

If that isn't ending a financial report on a happy note, we don't know what is.