Canadian Study Finds Recreational Cannabis Legalization Linked to Decline in Some Alcohol Sales

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A study in Canada looked at the effect of recreational cannabis legalization on alcohol sales across all provinces.

Researchers in Canada examined sales of alcohol compared with sales of recreational cannabis to gauge the effect of legalization in Canada in 2018 (1). The researchers noted that the data on cannabis being used in conjunction with alcohol or instead of alcohol is currently inconclusive (1). Previous US studies on this subject are not necessarily applicable to Canada for a variety of reasons, they also explained (1). Their study, “Association Between Non-Medical Cannabis Legalization and Alcohol Sales: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Canada,” was published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence in February 2024 and is reportedly the first of its kind (1).

Using an Interrupted Time Series design, researchers examined monthly data on sale of spirits and of bottled, canned, and kegged beer sales before and after 2018 (1). Specifically, data on spirits sales from January 2016 to February 2020 along with beer sales from January 2012 to February 2020 was analyzed for each province (1). Cannabis use in the country increased from about 15% before legalization to nearly 17% in 2019 (1). Overall, they found that the legalization of cannabis was associated with a decline in some alcohol sales (1).


As listed in the study, highlights from the research include the following (1):

  • Canada’s non-medical cannabis legalization was associated with decline in beer sales.
  • All provinces except the Atlantic provinces experienced a decline in beer sales.
  • Sales of canned and kegged beer decline but there was no reduction in sales of bottled beer.
  • The non-medical cannabis legalization was associated with no change in spirits sales.

The results suggested that cannabis may be being used as a substitute for beer, researchers proposed (1). In the study’s discussion, researchers argued that though the decline in beer sales was modest, it was economically significant (1). Furthermore, the results could have implications for public health policies, particularly with preventing cannabis sales to minors (1). To overcome the limitations of this study, further studies could include long-term, post-pandemic data, more varied demographic groups, and the inclusion of other types of alcohol (1).

Related: see the effects of “Dry January” on cannabis sales compared to alcohol sales in the US.


  1. Mital, S.; Bishop, L.; Bugden, S.; Grootendorst, P.; Nguyen, H. V. Association between Non-Medical Cannabis Legalization and Alcohol Sales: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Canada. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 2024.