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Report: Legal Marijuana Means Fewer Pills, Less Alcohol

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Report: Legal Marijuana Means Fewer Pills, Less Alcohol

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The latest reminder that it is not a War On Drugs so much as it is a War Between Drugs comes in the form of a report from HighYield Insights, a market research firm, which shows legalizing marijuana is a direct threat to the bottom line of Big Pharma and Big Booze.

According to a press release, more than one-in-five consumers in states where cannabis has been made legal report a drop in their use of pills and alcohol.

“We are just starting to grasp how legalization has impacted consumer behavior, be it spending, usage occasions, or shopping habits. Understanding these changes will lead to new growth opportunities for cannabis and further disruption for other categories,” said Mike Luce, cofounder of HighYield Insights.

In the new report, The Recreational Cannabis Consumer, HighYield surveyed 795 recreational cannabis consumers 21+ years old who had used marijuana or cannabis products in the past three months in California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Michigan.

The survey found the following declines among over one-fifth of those consumers:

  • a 20 percent decline in beer consumption;
  • a 21 percent decline in liquor consumption;
  • a 22 percent decline in sleeping pill consumption; and
  • a 27 percent decline in over-the-counter painkiller consumption.

Keith Stroup, founder of the nation’s oldest marijuana consumer lobby, NORML, applauds the results of of the survey.

“I will have to say it is a wonderful bit of news to learn when you can quantify it,” says Stroup. “I think all of us, or most of us, have had some personal experience where we use a little less Xanax or we drink a little less alcohol, because we’re smoking marijuana and that gets us where we want to get. But it’s nice to hear that quantified and I think it will become a more and more important political argument as we move forward.”

Nine states have already legalized marijuana, with Michigan poised to become the tenth depending on the results of the ballot initiative currently before the legislature, which may pass it, amend it, or send it to the voters. But will the threat to their bottom lines cause Big Pharma and Big Booze companies to fight against marijuana reform, or at least temper it to suit their agendas?

In the 2016 election, Insys Therapeutics, makers of a sublingual opioid spray and a synthetic cannabinoid drug, made that conjecture a reality by donating $500,000 to defeat the legalization in Arizona. The gaming industry in Nevada, heavily intertwined with the alcohol industry in the state, poured millions into an unsuccessful campaign to defeat that state’s legalization initiative, even though it had carved out market capture of the distribution of cannabis to the existing network of alcohol distributors. In Massachusetts, it was gaming and alcohol distributors that donated millions to the losing campaign to defeat legalization.

Stroup, however, doesn’t think legalizers need to fear the opposition of Big Pharma and Big Booze.

“I think there are already are some Big Pharma and Big Alcohol companies are already who are nervous as hell about the reality that many people, when given the choice, will smoke more marijuana and [drink] less alcohol and [use fewer] pharmaceuticals.”

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