New Distilled Spirits Council Study Shows No Impact on Spirits Sales from Legalized Recreational Marijuana

Distilled spirits sales have not been negatively impacted in the three states that have had legalized recreational marijuana retail sales the longest, according to a study by the Distilled Spirits Council.

This new in-depth analysis, utilizing state-level alcohol tax receipts and actual alcohol shipment data, examined per capita alcohol sales in Colorado, Washington state and Oregon for the two years prior to recreational marijuana legalization and up to 3-4 years post-legalization.

“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 the three states, per capita spirits sales increased between 3.6 to 7.6 percent since recreational marijuana legalization went into effect.  (Colorado up 7.6 percent; Washington state up 5.4 percent; and, Oregon up 3.6 percent).

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 percent, 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 percent; Washington state down -2.3 percent; and, Oregon down -3.6 percent);
  • In the three states, per capita wine sales were mixed.  (Colorado up 3.2 percent; Washington state down -3.1 percent; and, Oregon up 0.7 percent);
  • 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 percent; Washington state down -0.2 percent; and, Oregon down -0.5 percent)

While the Distilled Spirits Council has taken no position on whether states should legalize recreational use of marijuana, it has established marijuana policy principles that it urges state officials to consider if they pursue legalization of the product.

“If states contemplate marijuana legalization, we urge lawmakers to ensure they fully consider comparable taxes and regulation, strong road safety measures and social responsibility standards when they examine the issue,” said Distilled Spirits Council President & CEO Chris Swonger. “The spirits industry has long been a leader in traffic safety and personal responsibility through the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, and we are proud of the historic downward trends in both underage drinking and drunk driving.”

Currently 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).

A number of 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.

Recreational Marijuana Impact Study – 1/10/19