Legal marijuana dispensaries sold $11.3 million of marijuana in 2017, up 16% from a year earlier and nearly 10% more than liquor stores sold, according to the Aspen (Colo.) Times, citing the cities finance department. Liquor stores were flat.
Why is marijuana selling so well? A couple of theories: (1) people buy it, rather than alcohol, when they first come to the city as they adjust to its high altitude; (2) people are looking for something different than the lingering effects of alcohol.
Another possible reason: There are six marijuana dispensaries but only five liquor stores in Aspen’s city limits.
A study released in December by Georgia State University found alcohol purchases decreased 15% in counties in states with medical marijuana laws. This was true even when correcting for demographic and economic factors known to influence alcohol consumption, such as sex, age, unemployment rate and median household income.
The study authors also looked at counties along state borders and found those with legal access to marijuana had 20 percent lower alcohol sales than those across the border in states without medical marijuana laws.
The scientific literature on the relationship between alcohol and marijuana use has been inconclusive, with some studies showing marijuana access leads to more alcohol consumption and other studies showing the opposite effect.
“Our findings clearly show that these two substances act as strong substitutes in the marketplace,” Alberto Chong, a GSU economics professor, said. “This implies that rather than exacerbating the consequences of alcohol consumption—such as an increase in addiction, car accidents or disease risk—legalizing cannabis may temper them.”