Twenty years ago, cannabis was barely a blip on the business radar. It was simply cash exchanges relegated to back-alley dealings between two hippies with dreads. But now that it's legal, investors have begun to turn their profit-hungry heads green because weed suddenly has gargantuan potential to generate beaucoup-bucks. And should the business of cannabis continue along its upward trajectory, it may soon start contending with one of mankind’s oldest, most coveted intoxicants: booze.

And some within the brewing industry are getting nervous about that prospect.

According to one financial study by Bloomberg, the cannabis industry could be worth as much as $50 billion by 2026, should it gain federal legalization. That is insane, considering that only two decades ago this flower was universally forbidden across the entire U.S.

It’s obvious: The People like to get high. And for the alcohol industry, that means cannabis poses a “threat factor”.

“Although the ultimate impact is currently unknown, the emergence of legal cannabis in certain U.S. states and Canada may result in a shift of discretionary income away from our products or a change in consumer preferences away from beer,” officials for Molson Coors wrote in a 10-K filing. “As a result, a shift in consumer preferences away from our products or beer or a decline in the consumption of our products could result in a material adverse effect on our business and financial results.”

To compare: alcohol is a $200 billion industry, according to Cowen analysts. Alcohol manufacturers still have a significant lead on cannabis yields, and will well into the future. But that doesn’t mean companies like Molson Coors aren’t watching the cannabis industry grow with a level of financial weariness.

And Coors isn’t alone in its caution. Boston Beer Co., who makes Sam Adams, admits in their annual filing that “changes in public attitudes and drinker tastes” could pose serious harm to their business model. “It is possible that legal marijuana usage could adversely impact the demand for the Company’s products.”

Obviously, big beer businesses are concerned about the rise of cannabis as a competitor in the inebriation industries. Though, they don’t necessarily have to be.

Studies in the past have shown that people may start drinking less if they smoke more. Yet as of right now, there isn't enough data to say one way or another. What will likely happen, is the two will have to live in tandem with one another in harmony — likely a trend Constellation Brands sees, as it bought into the Canadian cannabis industry a few months back.

And the nation's first cannabis/coffee shop in Denver only got a green light recently. It’s going to be a café-styled outlet where people can go enjoy a nice cup of joe with their friends while passing around a fatty. Problem is, any realization of these types of hangouts are, as of right now, "bring your own cannabis." That is, there isn't much of a financial motivation to open these types of businesses as opposed to the money-makers in the bar scene.

Until there is full legalization nationwide, it's only speculation. Though the beer industry will likely continue to watch cannabis grow with unbridled anxiety regardless.

[cover photo via Pexels]