Does Legal Marijuana Affect Drinking Habits?
Data shows recreational weed may not be getting in the way of going out.
The stereotype that stoners just want to chill out at home may not be so accurate after all. Location intelligence company Foursquare’s recent study of foot traffic patterns and demographics in Oregon show that legal pot users have active social lives and active lifestyles as well. Chief among the findings is the effect legal marijuana has had on the alcohol and bar industry. The information could be a key factor in how businesses decide to prepare for recreational marijuana use in states like California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada.
As laws banning the greener way to relax become more and more lax domestically and abroad, one of the concerns of other purveyors of intoxicants has been the effect this would have on their sales. Most predict a downturn, which is why California’s wine industry is teaming up with weed professionals later this year to discuss the issues and overlap of their two products. States like Colorado, Oregon and Washington have reported slumping beer sales as well. But sales don’t tell the whole story.
Video: What Weed Smells Like to Wine Experts
Foursquare, which has about 50 million users globally, provided us with data about Oregon in particular, which legalized recreational marijuana in October of 2015. According to the company, this recent and immediate availability, coupled with the state’s demographics makes it an ideal testing ground for what legalization could look like in other states in the immediate future.
Over a twelve-month period, visits to liquor stores increased by 5-10 percent, whereas those visits across the U.S. increased twice as much. That is to say Oregon saw some growth in liquor store traffic, but not on par with national averages. However bars, breweries, lounges and clubs saw increased foot traffic on par with the rest of the country, meaning that it’s possible people are swapping their bar cart for a bong at home, but still up for a night on the town.
While the higher bar traffic and lower alcohol sales don’t seem to correlate, one x-factor that must be considered is that Oregon (like any self-respecting state) sells beer, wine and liquor at grocery stores. Since Foursquare was unable to determine which grocery store visits included alcohol purchases, that data was not factored in.
Across all four states (AK, CO, OR & WA) marijuana shops saw 25 percent growth in visits 2016, year over year. When it comes to who is hitting up dispensaries, unsurprisingly it’s millennials (46 percent of visitors) and tourists (almost one third of visitors) that are making the most of recreational weed. However the flower children of yesteryear aren’t missing out either, comprising 23% of visitors.
(I will say from personal experience that the reasons for each generation’s pot purchases may differ. The last time I went into a dispensary on the Oregon Coast, half of the shoppers were over 50 years old, and many of them, including my parents, were buying for medical or pain management reasons.)
Surprisingly (or not, if you’re familiar with the regions) these mountainous states are also putting the “recreation” in recreational marijuana. Based on the data, dispensary users were more likely to also frequent ski resorts, rock climbing gyms, sports arenas and bicycle shops than other Foursquare users. Legal stoners also showed a penchant for Asian food like ramen and dumplings and an more likely to drink craft beer and cocktails as well.
So as another handful of states (and Canada) look toward legalizing recreational marijuana, it seems that while people’s buying habits change with a new intoxicant on the block, people’s other habits like grabbing a beer after a day of hiking or snowboarding are largely unaffected. To end on a high note, the data from last year also showed that, on marijuana’s unofficial appreciation day of 4/20, everybody (including pot shops, liquor stores, and fast food joints) wins. Foot traffic was up across the board