While an uptick in cannabis users won’t necessarily translate to a reduction in alcohol consumption, the alcohol business needs to be aware that this budding industry could impact its own.

It’s essential that alcohol labels pay attention to their customers – knowing that some occasions may result in a decrease in alcohol consumption in place of legal marijuana.

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A message from Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America: While neutral on the issue of legalization, WSWA believes states that legalize marijuana need to ensure appropriate and effective regulations are enacted to protect the public from the dangers associated with the abuse and misuse of marijuana.

23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medicinal marijuana while Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and D.C. have legalized possession and recreational use. In the years since the state legalized medicinal use, Colorado law enforcement officials have documented a significant increase in traffic fatalities in which drivers tested positive for marijuana.

Pro-legalization advocates have long speculated that as criminalization and stigma disappear, many adults will choose to use marijuana instead of drink alcohol, which could lead to diminishing profits for beer, wine and liquor manufacturers and sellers.

The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America’s website calls marijuana policy a “key issue” and its annual convention last year featured a panel titled, “Everything You Need to Know about Marijuana Legalization.” A press release said the session would cover “how marijuana legalization could impact another socially sensitive product: beverage alcohol.”

Earlier this year a similar group, the Arizona Wine and Spirits Association, contributed $10,000 to the effort to defeat a marijuana legalization initiative that is expected to appear on Arizona’s November ballot.

The Politico newsletter ad refers to a provision of legislation Congress passed late last year which requires the Department of Transportation to conduct a study on the best methods for detecting cannabis-impaired driving and ways to “differentiate the cause of a driving impairment between alcohol and marijuana.” Under the law, the government will conduct a year-long investigation and then make recommendations, including for an “impairment standard” for driving under the influence of marijuana.

“There is currently no scientific consensus regarding the level at which marijuana consumption impairs a driver and no effective way to measure this impairment in the field,” WSWA said in a press release about the legislation. “This is problematic for law enforcement who, in contrast, can quickly and effectively establish a scientifically and legally-supported measure of alcohol impairment.”

Morgan Fox, communications manager for the Marijuana Policy Project, said that the alcohol industry has its work cut out for itself in combatting drunk driving and should be wary about being seen as impeding cannabis legalization.

“No one should be driving while impaired by marijuana, and we should certainly be doing more research into all aspects of the substance, including its impact on driving,” he told Marijuana.com in an email. “However, given that driving under the influence of marijuana is already illegal and that the existing research shows marijuana’s effect on driving ability is significantly less than alcohol, it is difficult to see a legitimate reason for the alcohol industry to be taking up this issue. They would do better to fund research on how to decrease drunk driving.”

Customers will continue to look to cannabis products over liquor for times when they are feeling creative or investigating health, therapeutic, or wellness advantages.

Pot may cause impairment but we all know how dangerous alcohol is.  You be the judge!

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