Although booze is a great American staple, a man’s dedication to the drink can sometimes bring about a wealth of troubles and societal hazards that, if not properly leashed in his early 30’s, can catapult him into a downward spiral of knob-gobbling degeneracy and cirrhosis of the liver. Binge drinking, otherwise defined as knocking back more than a few cocktails in a short span of time, is one of the latest trends in the nation’s quest for numbness and self-loathing.
What was once part of the exploits practiced mainly by college students and heavy metal bands has now transcended into the white bread crevasses of popular culture. Now, the entire nation is at risk of being tossed to the wolves of their own mortality on a variety of beer-soaked maladies ranging from brain deterioration to cancer. But the situation is slightly different in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.
A recent report from Forbes shows that fewer people are binge drinking in states where weed is sold like booze.
It was just last month that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published data showing how a large percentage of the American population is now hitting the bottle with rabid enthusiasm. It seems that adults, regardless of their race, religion or financial status, are responsible for knocking back 17 billion alcoholic beverages in 2015 – around 470 binge drinks per binge drinker. The report went on to say that 37 million adults (1 in 6) are engaging in this dangerous behavior at least once a week. But in states where weed is legal, more people are opting to hit the bong.
Last week, the Wall Street investment firm Cowen & Company published a comprehensive study over the conditions of marijuana legalization in the United States. Among their findings was a crucial snippet of information that may have alcohol industry executives jumping to their deaths in the near future. Binge drinking is down in states with recreational marijuana laws on the books. This means that some consumers, especially those living in states that forefathered the marijuana legalization movement, are starting to choose marijuana over alcohol in some cases.
“In legal adult use cannabis states,” the analysts wrote, “the number binge drinking sessions per month (for states legal through 2016) was -9% below the national average.”
Cowen’s analysts found 13 percent less binge drinking in legal marijuana states than in areas of prohibition.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect surrounding the latest data is that it provides food for thought with respect to just how legal marijuana might change the world.
A number of studies throughout the years how shown that marijuana is decreasing the use and abuse of opioids in states where it is legal. In fact, two recent studies published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal point to legal marijuana as being part of the equation in solving the national opioid crisis.
But the latest report from Cowen is the first of its kind that show how legal marijuana could make a dent in binge drinking behavior.
It is no secret that more Americans are searching for ways to cut carbs and calories. Many are ditching sugary sodas. A lot of these same people are also switching to beers that they hope will not lead to bulging guts and bloated faces. It is for this reason that low-carb beers are gaining popularity.
But given a situation where marijuana is legal in all 50 states, more folks could choose cannabis over booze. A recent poll finds that most of the population is under no illusion that alcohol is good for them. Around a quarter of the respondents said booze was the most dangerous substance on the planet. Only 9 percent said it was weed.
But marijuana still has a long way to go before it cripples the alcohol industry. Booze still rakes in hundreds of billions annually, while the nationwide cannabis trade sits roughly at $50 billion. Still there is no denying that bud is giving booze a run for its money.
“We have consistently argued that cannabis and alcohol are substitute social lubricants,” the report reads. “To be sure, we do not dispute that alcohol will continue to be quite popular in the U.S. (generating over $210 bn in annual retail sales today). We are, however, focused on the marginal alcohol unit, which given the cannabis category’s much smaller size, creates a sizable opportunity for the cannabis industry.”
In an effort to stop the bleeding, the alcohol industry is getting in on the business of legal weed. Several craft brewers have created beers that will be marketed to cannabis users. The biggest development from this sector comes from Blue Moon creator Keith Villa. His company Ceria Beverages is producing the first THC-infused beer ever sold in the United States. What sets this brew apart from similar variations is it does not contain any alcohol. Constellation Brand, one of the world’s largest brewers, is working on similar products that will be sold in the Canadian market later this year.
With a nation pitted against the concept of smoking, it is conceivable that THC-infused beverages may be the ticket to wider acceptance. Who knows, maybe this rivalry between alcohol and cannabis will eventually give way to products that makes nationwide legalization more palatable to the old grey-hairs sitting on Capitol Hill. It might also save the lives of the 88,000 people who die each year in the United States as a result of alcohol.