As cannabis consumption increasingly becomes normalized, there appears to be an interesting side effect.
This particular byproduct of cannabis decriminalization is a positive one: decreased binge drinking.
As revealed by FinancialBuzz.com in a press release, Cowen & Co., a financial firm that provides several specialized services, reported binge drinking rates in states that have legalized adult-use cannabis consumption dropped nine percent below the national average in 2016.
That drop increased to 11 percent when compared to binge drinking in states that have yet to legalize adult consumption cannabis. We should celebrate things that help reduce harmful drinking behaviors.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines binge drinking as “when men consume 5 or more drinks or women consume 4 or more drinks in about 2 hours,” typically. According to the CDC:
- One in six US adults engages in binge drinking approximately four times per month.
- About seven drinks are consumed per drinking binge.
- Annually, 467 binge drinks are consumed per binge drinker.
- Men are twice as likely to binge drink as women, consuming four of five total binge drinks.
- More binge drinks are consumed per year by binge drinkers with lower education and income levels. However, it’s more common for people with higher educations and incomes of $75,000 and above to engage in binge drinking.
- The majority of binge drinkers, contrary to what many people likely believe, aren’t dependent on alcohol.
Data regarding age groups may lend some credence to the correlation between legal cannabis consumption and decreases in binge drinking rates. Headset, an analytics service provider for the cannabis industry, reviewed cannabis customer loyalty program data and found that half of such members are under the age of 40. The top age group for binge drinking, according to the CDC? Adults ranging from 18 to 34 years of age.
In January of 2017, Eaze, a cannabis product delivery service operating in California and Oregon, revealed the results of a customer survey. A massive amount of respondents—nearly 82 percent—said they had reduced (19.8 percent, a small decrease; 24.6 percent, moderate decrease; 25.7 percent, significant decrease) or completely stopped (11.6 percent) their alcohol consumption because of cannabis.
Eaze found that the steepest decline in alcohol consumption came from Millennials. However, the company revealed in January of this year that Baby Boomers are one the fastest-growing adult-use, legal cannabis consumer age groups.
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It’s perhaps the changing attitude of Baby Boomers toward cannabis—and accompanying usage—that represents the greatest overall societal shift in perception in the United States. What this demographic once saw as a criminal (and therefore shameful) indulgence is now, in multiple states, legal for recreational enjoyment.
At the moment, even THC-free CBD-infused beverages (and food items) face an uphill battle for service by bars and restaurants. The U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco and Trade Bureau (TTB), along with state liquor control agencies and some local health departments, regulates such beverages. However, they defer to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) classification of CBD-infused products as safe and legal. So far, the FDA has deemed such items as unlawful.
It’s possible that the FDA will change course as even more Americans (the majority already support legalization) shift how they view recreational cannabis. This may lead to the lawful sale of THC-infused beverages—both traditional and zero-proof—by restaurants and bars.
Showing that cannabis can lead to many adults engaging in more responsibly alcohol consumption behavior may lead to politicians changing their minds about legalization. Operators who agree should organize in their markets and speak to their local and state politicians.
“CDC Fact Sheets - Binge Drinking.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last reviewed October 24, 2018.
“2016 State of Cannabis Data Report.” Eaze. January 9, 2017.
“State of Cannabis: Consumers diversified in 2018.” Eaze. January 15, 2019.
“What Does the Average Cannabis Consumer Look Like?” Headset. July 21, 2016.