Cannabis Legalization

How Has Cannabis Legalization Affected Alcohol Use in the US?

It’s widely agreed that cannabis is far safer than alcohol. Experts and proponents of cannabis legalization stand strong in the belief that legalizing marijuana has a substantial impact as a benefit to public health regarding the consumption of alcohol.

Study Finds Alcohol Sales Drop 15 Percent in States with Medical Marijuana Laws

The University of Connecticut, Georgia State University, and the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies are working to determine exactly how cannabis legalization has affected alcohol consumption in the US. A paper published in November highlights that alcohol sales dropped 15 percent in many states following medical marijuana legalization.

Researchers used data on alcoholic beverage purchases in grocery, convenience, drug, and big box stores across the US from 2006-2005. The aim was to study the connection between medical marijuana laws and alcohol consumption. They also wanted “focus on settling the debate between the substitutability or complementarity between marijuana and alcohol.”

According to the study, the “specific objective is to seek a causal relationship between the legalization of medical marijuana and alcohol purchases by exploiting differences in the timing of the change of marijuana laws among states.”

They compared purchases of alcoholic beverages in states that have legalized medical marijuana laws to those that haven’t. Researchers stated in very simple terms what they discovered.

“We find the legalization of marijuana reduces alcohol consumption.”

Studies Divided About Alcohol and Cannabis Use

There’s long been an inconclusive link between alcohol and cannabis. Where some studies assess the two as substitutes, others appraise them as complementary substances. After pouring over various factors regarding alcohol and cannabis use, researchers concluded the two to be substitutes for one another, rather than the other way around.

Studies that have been conducted to date show mixed evidence the effect legal medical marijuana has on alcohol consumption. Not all evidence suggests the legalization of medical cannabis deters people from drinking, but there is a strong indication from several studies that it does.

Could Cannabis Help Curb Alcohol Addiction in the US?

In a country where one in 12 adults suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence (17.6 million people), cannabis could be something that helps. And while not every alcoholic is going to put down the bottle once they can buy legal marijuana, many speculate that full-blown legalization could seriously curb alcohol use in the country.

It’s no secret that alcohol is far more dangerous than cannabis, even though the use of alcohol is legal. It’s a huge part of American culture, often promoted as a way to relax and have a good time. Cannabis however, remains on the federal government’s list of the most dangerous substances available.

Never mind that no one has ever overdosed on marijuana. Alcohol is an entirely different story. In the US alone, it’s estimated that almost 90,000 people die from excessive alcohol use each year. It’s linked to several different health conditions and is far more addictive than cannabis could ever be.

We’re curious about your experience with cannabis and alcohol. Did you drink more before cannabis laws became effective in your state? Do you think the legalization of marijuana could have a significant impact on alcohol consumption? We’d love to hear your comments below.

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