Canada: Researches find reduced alcohol consumption with cannabis use

Canadian researchers have discovered that people who consumed medical cannabis will reduce or even discontinue their consumption of alcohol. If verified by others studies, these findings could have a major impact on breweries and other producers of alcoholic beverages because a further legalization of cannabis consumption could severely harm their traditional business models.

Research led by Philippe Lucas, a Graduate Researcher at the University of Victoria, in Greater Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and VP Global Patient Research and Access at Tilray, has found that medical cannabis use is associated with self-reported reductions and even discontinuation of alcohol use amongst authorized Canadian patients.

Overall, 973 survey participants reported past or current alcohol use, with 419 (44%) reporting decreases in alcohol usage frequency over 30 days, 323 (34%) decreasing the number of standard drinks they had per week, and 76 (8%) reporting no alcohol use at all in the 30 days prior to the survey. Being younger than 55 years and reporting higher rates of alcohol use prior to initiating medical cannabis use were both associated with greater odds of reducing alcohol use, and having an intention to use medical cannabis to reduce alcohol consumption was associated with significantly greater odds of both reducing and ceasing alcohol use altogether.

The results stem from the Canadian Cannabis Patient Survey 2019 (CCPS 2019), a large national cross-sectional survey that gathered comprehensive information on patient demographics, patterns of cannabis use, and self-reported use of prescription drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs before and after medical cannabis initiation from 2102 Canadian medical cannabis patients registered with Tilray.

Tilray is a global pioneer in cannabis production and distribution and is active in the research of non-alcohol beverages containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). It is serving tens of thousands of patients and consumers in 13 countries spanning five continents. In December 2018, AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer announced a cooperation with Tilray through its subsidiary Labatt Breweries of Canada (, 21.12.2018).

"The results of CCPS 2019 add to a growing body of evidence that medical cannabis use is often associated with reductions in the use of other substances, including alcohol, opioids, tobacco and illicit drugs" says Lucas. In 2016, a study by investment banking firm Cowen and Company already suggested that beer sales are declining in markets where recreational cannabis is legal (, 30.11.2016).

The increased interest of major brewing groups in cannabis-based beverages can also be attributed to these findings. Molson Coors Beverage Company, extended in April its existing Canadian joint venture with HEXO Corp for the development of non-alcoholic, cannabis-infused beverages from Canada to the United States (, 15.4.2020), Constellation Brands  boosted in May its equity holding in Canopy Growth to 38.6% (, 1.5.2020) and AB InBev announced in December 2018 through its subsidiary Labatt Breweries of Canada a partnership with Tilray (, 21.12.2018).

In Germany, leading brewing groups Oettinger, Krombacher and Bitburger also started cooperations in this sector with XPhyto Therapeutics (, 13.5.2020), Demecan (, 27.5.2020), and Sanity Group (, 22.10.1020) respectively.

"Since alcohol is the most prevalent recreational substance in the world, and its use results in significant rates of criminality, morbidity and mortality, these findings may result in improved health outcomes for medical cannabis patients, as well as overall improvements in public health and safety,"  says Lucas.

These results were recently published in the International Journal of Drug Policy in a paper titled Reductions in alcohol use following medical cannabis initiation: results from a large cross-sectional survey of medical cannabis patients in Canada co-authored by Susan Boyd (University of Victoria), M-J Milloy (University of British Columbia) and Zach Walsh (University of British Columbia, Okanagan).

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