Weed legal states are experiencing a large decrease in binge drinkers

Weed legal states are experiencing a large decrease in binge drinkers

VicesMay 10, 2018 By Will Brendza

Binge drinking seems to be reaching a pinnacle in the U.S. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every six Americans classifies themselves as a weekly binge drinker. Just in 2015, 37 million Americans sucked back 17 billion drinks — which spreads out to around 470 binge drinks per binge drinker.

That’s a lot of booze, no matter how you pour it. It’s a habit of consumption that’s on the rise everywhere in this country, too. Everywhere, except in a handful of lucky states — those where weed has been legalized.

That’s right: America’s binge drinking problem may have a solution ... in recreational pot.

A recent report by Cowen & Company found that, in states where cannabis has been legalized, binge drinking is on the decrease. The investment firm described marijuana as a “substitute social lubricant” that could have even greater investment potential than previously imagined.

“Assuming federal legalization, we believe cannabis can generate gross sales of $75 billion by 2030 (and $17.5 billion in tax revenue),” reads Cowen & Company’s report. “As cannabis access expands, we expect further pressure on alcohol sales, given this notable divide in consumption patterns.”

That is to say, the pot industry is going to give the alcohol industry a run for its money. As marijuana embeds itself deeper into our day-to-day culture, more people are shifting away from the bottle and towards the bong.

“In legal adult use cannabis states,” continues the report, “the number of binge drinking sessions per month (for states legal through 2016) was -9% below the national average.”

Which is great news for this country. Alcohol is one of the most dangerous substances legally available in America — especially when it’s being binge guzzled. Annually, 2,200 Americans die from alcohol poisoning. That is six people per day.

Marijuana by comparison is an incredibly safe drug to imbibe. There has never been a recorded overdose fatality from marijuana. And there’s a good reason for that: it’s an almost impossible thing to accomplish. According to a 1988 U.S. administrative law hearing, “A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about fifteen minutes to induce a lethal response.”

If you can burn through even one pound of pot in 15 minutes, you deserve a medal. Not even a toker with lungs like Michael Phelps could pull that off without passing out. In fact, asphyxiation from the smoke is actually a bigger threat than THC-poisoning.

So, as the magic of marijuana spreads from one state to the next it may be the case that America’s binge drinking phase starts to peter out. And, perhaps, so too will the number of alcohol overdoses and the number of alcohol fatalities.

That sounds like a spectacular trade-off.  

[cover photo chuttersnap via Unsplash]