Many experts have speculated that legalizing marijuana could dramatically hurt alcohol sales in the United States. But if you look at states that already have legalized cannabis, there's not much evidence proving that theory.
A study conducted by the Distilled Spirits Council of the first three states to legalize marijuana (Colorado, Washington and Oregon) found that newly legal cannabis did not hurt the sales of alcohol. The study looked at per-capita alcohol sales in the two years prior to legalization and the four years afterwards. They found that sales of spirits increased in all three states and wine sales went up in two states. Beer sales were down in all three states, but the Council noted that beer sales have been losing market share to wine and spirits for over a decade, and that the decrease in beer sales was consistent with states that have not legalized marijuana.
"At this point, we've seen no impact on spirit sales from legalized recreational marijuana," said Distilled Spirits Council Chris Swonger.
One financial analyst said that most alcohol manufacturers probably have nothing to worry about when it comes to marijuana, and that the only aspect of the alcohol market that may be threatened is cheap beer. They noted that the largest demographic of marijuana users is lower-income white men, which also happens to be the largest demographic that purchases cheap beer. So if lower income white men begin spending their extra money on cannabis instead of beer, that could impact sales.
But otherwise it seems that, at least for now, that the alcohol industry doesn't have to worry too much about cannabis.