In spite of consumer interest in recreational marijuana and the fact that several states have legalized its use, the Washington, D.C.-based Distilled Spirits Council reports that distilled spirits sales have not been negatively impacted. The new in-depth study examined state-level alcohol tax receipts and per capita alcohol sales in Colorado, Washington state and Oregon for the two years prior to recreational marijuana legalization and up to three to four years post-legalization.

“Simply put, the data shows there has been no impact on spirits sales from recreational marijuana legalization,” said Distilled Spirits Council Chief Economist David Ozgo in a statement, 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,” he added.

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 was up 7.6 percent; Washington state was up 5.4 percent; and Oregon was up 3.6 percent, according to study data.

Additionally, no evidence was found that legal recreational marijuana has impacted total per capita alcohol sales in beer, wine and spirits as follows:

  • In the case of per capital beer sales, sales in the three states declined between -2.3 to -3.6 percent, but this is consistent with the national trend in beer sales and is not isolated to just those states that have legalized marijuana sales, Orzgo said.
  • In the three states, per capita wine sales were mixed. Colorado was up 3.2 percent; Washington state was down -3.1 percent; and Oregon was up 0.7 percent.
  • Per capita total beverage alcohol sales (spirits, wine and beer) were roughly flat, also consistent with the national trend. Colorado was up 1.7 percent; Washington state was down -0.2 percent; and Oregon was down -0.5 percent.

Although 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 and CEO Chris Swonger in a statement.

In addition to Colorado, Oregon, Washington state and the District of Columbia, seven states have legalized sales of recreational marijuana: Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, and Vermont. In 2019, several states are considering legalizing recreational marijuana, including Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania. BI