Author:Sullum, Jacob

ONE OF THE most important issues for people worried about the consequences of marijuana legalization is the extent to which cannabis serves as a substitute for alcohol, which is more dangerous in several significant ways. Recent evidence from Canada and the United States reinforces the hypothesis that people tend to drink less when marijuana is legally available, although the issue is far from settled.

During 2019, the first full year of legalization in Canada, the volume of beer sold there fell by 3 percent, the Financial Post reports. That drop was large compared to the annual declines seen in the previous five years, which averaged 0.3 percent. Vivien Azer, an industry analyst quoted by the Post, said the accelerated slide was probably related to marijuana legalization, and she predicted that the expansion of cannabis products available from legal sources--which as of January included vapes, edibles, and beverages as well as buds--will "perpetuate this trend."

More rigorous evidence on the relationship between marijuana use and drinking comes from a study reported in the March 2020 issue of the journal Addictive Behaviors. Based on nationwide survey data covering a 10-year period, Zoe Alley and two other researchers at Oregon State University found that college students in U.S. states where marijuana had been legalized for recreational use were less likely to report binge drinking than college students in other states, after taking into account pre-existing trends and several potential...

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