Study: ‘Significant’ negative ties between medical cannabis sales, alcohol

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A Canadian researcher has found a “significant negative association” between sales of regulated medical cannabis and alcohol.

The research by business professor Michael J. Armstrong was published online in the journal Health Policy in November, and compared legal medical marijuana sales to sales of beer, wine, and liquor in Canada from 2015 to 2018.

Armstrong’s study found that each dollar of legal cannabis sold was associated with alcohol sales declines of between 74 Canadian cents (54 cents) and CA$0.84.

However, the Brock University professor said his research did not prove causation.

Armstrong said the research suggests that medical cannabis use replaced some alcohol consumption.

The study found that Canada’s alcohol sales in 2017-2018 were roughly 1.8% lower than they otherwise would have been without regulated medical marijuana.

The paper also suggested that reduced alcohol sales may partly offset any harms and benefits from cannabis legalization.

“For example, increased cannabis-related health problems might come with decreased alcohol-related ones. And governments’ new cannabis tax income might be offset by lower alcohol tax revenues,” Armstrong told MJBizDaily via email.

The Canadian study accounted for differences in alcohol prices, retail spending, unemployment rates, and impaired driving penalties.

Armstrong’s 1.8% figure is much smaller than the 15% demand decrease for alcohol that was estimated for Washington State, but the Washington study by Keaton Miller and Boyoung Seo examined recreational cannabis.

The study can be found here.