Legal cannabis could mean less alcohol consumption
One of the most important issues for those concerned about the consequences of legalizing cannabis is the extent to which cannabis replaces alcohol, which is more dangerous in several important ways. Recent evidence from Canada and the United States supports the hypothesis that people tend to drink less when weed is legally available, although the problem is far from over ...
In 2019, the first full year of legalization in Canada, the volume of beer sold in this country fell by 3%, reports the Financial Post. This drop was significant compared to the annual declines observed over the previous five years, which averaged 0,3%. Vivien Azer, an industry analyst cited by the FPost , said the fast-track slide was likely related to the legalization of hemp, and she predicted that the expansion of cannabis products available from legal sources - which in January included vapes, edibles and drinks as well as buds - "will perpetuate this trend".
More rigorous evidence on the relationship between lcannabis use and alcohol consumption come from a study published in the March 2020 issue of the journal Addictive Behaviors . Based on national survey data spanning a 10-year period, Zoe Alley and two other researchers at Oregon State University found that college students in U.S. states where weed had been legalized for recreational use were less likely to report binge drinking than college students in other states. , after taking into account pre-existing trends and several potential confounding variables. The difference was statistically significant among students aged 21 and over, the threshold for legal purchase.
This apparent substitution effect, the authors note, is consistent with previous studies which found "reductions in alcohol consumption (particularly binge drinking in young adults) and in traffic accidents related to alcohol ”following medical legalization. A causal link is plausible in these studies if we assume that apparently medical use is in fact recreational (or that some drinks are functionally medical), so that cannabis use would replace alcohol use.
Previous research, Alley et al, found "a pronounced decrease in cannabis use that coincides with a marked increase in alcohol consumption after minors have reached the legal drinking age", which suggests that some young people replace cannabis with alcohol once they are legally allowed to drink. Researchers speculate that "legalizing recreational use may moderate this effect, so that students over the age of 21 who otherwise would have engaged in binge drinking continue to consume weed instead." .