Lurking over marijuana legalization in the U.S. is a concealed conflict between marijuana and a competing vice industry: alcohol.
The alcohol industry fears that legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use will drastically diminish their enormous profits as an expanding number of states – Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, and others – look to join the four states – Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington – and D.C. that have already legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 or older.
But contrary to many predictions, alcohol sales are up in Colorado since recreational marijuana legalization began in early 2014.
Since legalization “we’ve just seen phenomenal growth,” said Justin Martz, who runs a liquor store in downtown Denver. In regards to legalization, Martz noted that “if anything it’s kind of helped us. A high tide lifts all boats.”
The Fort Collins, Colorado craft brewery New Belgium agree that scaremongers in the alcohol industry were wrong about marijuana legalization’s impact on the alcohol industry. A New Belgium employee stated that the two can be mutually beneficial in boosting overall sales: “There’s definitely some crossover in the two communities of beer drinkers and herb enjoyers. But I don’t think people are doubling down in one category or the other.” New Belgium noted that they’ve seen “no demonstrable impact at all in terms of sales.”
Many in Colorado’s alcohol industry credit marijuana with helping boost tourism in Colorado, which in turn increases alcohol sales at bars and restaurants. Tourism set record highs in Colorado in 2014, the first year of recreational marijuana legalization.