Canada and the Future Impact of Cannabis on Wine Sales

The ways in which Canada and Canadians are different from Americans are many. But it’s also true that Canadians and Americans are very similar people. Given that, what to make of this:

“According to a new poll conducted by Ipsos exclusively for Global News, nearly half of cannabis users — 45 per cent — say they will drink less alcohol now that pot is legal.”

In my view, the jury is still out. The question is not “will legal recreational cannabis negatively impact alcohol sales?” It will. Rather, the jury is out on just how much it will impact alcohol sales.

Those of you who read this blog regularly might right say that I’ve been harping on this issue for a long time and I guess you’d be right. But the reason for this is because it’s extraordinarily rare for a new factor to come along that can impact the course of wine sales. Recessions tend to do this, but they aren’t new. They come and go. Changes in alcohol laws can impact alcohol sales, but changes in the legal environment come and go regularly. The introduction of legal recreational cannabis, a new legal inebriant, is different.

Consider these conclusions from a 2016 review of research looking at whether folks substitute cannabis for alcohol:

“Results from studies of youth suggest that youth may reduce alcohol in more liberal cannabis environments (substitute), but reduce cannabis in more stringent alcohol environments (complement). Results from the general population suggest that substitution of cannabis for alcohol may occur under more lenient cannabis policies, though cannabis-related laws may affect alcohol use differently across genders and racial groups.” (emphasis added)

The entire West Coast of the United States is among the more liberal environments in the country and has also embraced what must be termed “lenient cannabis policies.”

Getting back to the Ipsos poll of Canadians noted above, the story about the Ipsos survey is a bit odd. It reports that current cannabis users are likely to use less alcohol. I’ve found more results of this survey and it appears that Global News has buried the lede. Consider these findings from the same survey:

•7% say they would be inclined to drink less alcohol once marijuana is legalized.

•Two in ten (18%) recreational marijuana users (frequently or regularly) will consume less alcohol.

Millennials are also more likely to decrease their alcohol and tobacco consumption, as a result of the legalization of marijuana. One in ten (12%) Millennials also say that they will consume less alcohol (12% vs. 6% Gen X’ers/6% Boomers)

The key takeaway here is that the future of wine and alcohol consumption (millennials) are far more likely to replace alcohol with cannabis.

This last weekend I was on David Wilson’s Grape Encounters Radio show talking about the upcoming Supreme Court case concerning wine. But we also talked about one of David’s pet peeves: that the cannabis folks are usurping the goodwill that the wine industry has built for wine by trying to equate cannabis with wine. I feel his pain.

However, when I mentioned to him that cannabis legalization will impact wine sales he was somewhat surprised. Those of us in the wine industry and those who drink higher end, more expensive wines, tend to do so for the aesthetic and intellectual experience first and second for the way it makes us feel or, as David puts it, for the “attitude adjustment” it delivers. Yet the overwhelming majority of Americans drink wine for the attitude adjustment factor first. Well, cannabis is consumed almost primarily for the attitude adjustment it provides.

There is no doubt that many of those who drink wine for its mind-altering reasons first will switch to cannabis…just as the Ipsos survey reveals.


2 Responses

  1. Jim Wallace - November 19, 2018

    Many years ago I was in the wine industry and smoked pot regularly. One of my better customers found an ounce (of pot) in a case of wine going to his place (how did it get there?). Another time I was calling on accounts and got lost, in my own back yard so to speak.

    I don’t think smoking will affect drinking habits significantly. I quit smoking simply I didn’t like not being in control.

  2. Helene - November 20, 2018

    Interesting comment from Jim (above). Many, many decades ago when I was at Uni, I would occasionally make ‘funny gingerbread’ for some of my male friends. Girls’ Colleges had kitchens, albeit communal; Boys’ Colleges did not. And how discriminatory was that?

    Regardless, a few male friends would buy a ‘lid’ deliver to me and magically the gingerbread would appear. Tried it once, did nothing for me (including no psychographic effects) and I was concerned about the lung-thing, so never again. If people want to do it, then whatever…For me, it was back to decent wine.

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