New Study: As Marijuana is Legalized, Interest in Alcohol Drops

A new study analyzing internet exploration finds a sharp decrease in online searches for alcohol.

A recent study suggests there is a cause for concern for the alcohol industry in relation to recreational cannabis legalization.

“It appears the alcohol industry has valid reason to be concerned about legal marijuana and may need creative strategies to avoid market decline if it passes,” stated the study’s authors in a news release.

Researchers from Syracuse University and the University of Georgia sought out to analyze the impact of recreational use marijuana on the alcohol industry by examining anonymous online data over a three year period, from Jan. 2014 to April 2017. They looked at 28 million online searches and 120 million ad impressions from a leading U.S.-based web portal.

What they found was a nearly 11 percent drop in searches for alcohol in states where recreational marijuana is legal. The researchers also found that tobacco products were searched online nearly 8 percent more often in those same states.

Teens and Cannabis Use

Another key finding from the study was that while the legalization of recreational marijuana increased online searches for cannabis among adults by 17 percent, there was a decrease in searches done by people 19 years old and younger.

“Contrary to widely held public concern after recreational cannabis is legalized, teenagers appear to lose interest, rather than gain interest,” stated the study’s authors. “Policymakers only concerned with an uptick in teen users, may want to rethink their stance.”

The study, “Asymmetric Effects of Recreational Cannabis Legalization” was published in the INFORMS Journal, Marketing Science.

Alcohol Use in the Wave of Cannabis Legalization

The new study’s results reflect a growing amount of research suggesting that while cannabis consumption grows, interest in alcohol is declining. A recent market research report from New Frontier Data found that 65 percent of cannabis users prefer it over alcohol.

Researchers suggested the trend is in part due to an increase of support for cannabis legalization among millennials. The same report found that 45 percent of cannabis users who also consume alcohol say they believe they will ultimately replace some of their alcohol use with cannabis.

Another sign of alcohol use decline was found in states where recreational marijuana is legal. The New Frontier Data report found a 6.5 percent spending decrease in alcohol sales in those states.

The results are supported by a separate study examining alcohol sales in places where medical marijuana is legal. The study by researchers at Georgia State University shows alcohol sales declined over a 10-year period in U.S. counties where medical marijuana is legal.

Data from the report revealed alcohol purchases decreased by 15 percent in counties in states with medical marijuana laws. Researchers also found that in states with medical marijuana legalization, the counties along state borders had 20 percent lower alcohol sales compared to counties just across the state line which prohibited cannabis sales.

More Cannabis News

Recreational marijuana is currently legal in 11 states, while more than 30 states permit the use of marijuana for medical purposes. To learn more about the latest reports in cannabis research, politics, and business, visit our news page.