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Recreational Pot Use May Be Cutting Into Beer Sales

SAN FRANCSICO (KPIX 5) -- With recent California beer sales trending downward, some who work in the beverage industry are wondering the booming recreational marijuana industry could be having an impact.

At the San Francisco office of Eaze – a company that is often referred to as the "Uber of weed" – representatives say they advertise cannabis as a hangover-free alternative to alcohol. Its customers report that they are drinking less.

"I don't think alcohol is going anywhere any time soon, but yes, I definitely would say that cannabis is curtailing alcohol consumption," said Eaze Director of Communications Sheena Shiravi. "Of the ones who consume alcohol, 82 percent of them decreased their alcohol intake due to cannabis consumption. And 11 percent quit drinking altogether."

Some interesting numbers regarding beverage consumption are now pouring out of California. Bart Watson is Chief Economist for the Brewer's Association.

"California saw a four percent drop in beer shipments in February," explained Watson. "I think it's certainly too early to say whether cannabis has had a direct effect on not just beer, but all alcohol sales, which are certainly related."

In other words, researchers will have to wait and see if wine and liquor sales also trend downwards. But American habits in this regard are prone to change.

"You know, you have the 'Mad Men' era, where spirits were dominant. And then an era was beer was dominant in the U.S. by volume," said Watson.

And it is exactly large and medium sized brewers that are struggling right now as to whether cannabis is siphoning off some of their business, it may take a little longer to know for sure.

"I would agree. I think this is something that's going to take a lot of time to sort out," said Watson.

"Yeah, it'll definitely take 5 to 10 years to really see the impact for alcohol versus cannabis," agreed Shiravi.

Another relationship to think about: as beer has gotten more expensive, the industry has seen an explosion of relatively cheap wines, which also could be contributing to the change in beer sales.

Of course, legal cannabis is a brand new competitor. How California residents are responding to a change that big is something we may not fully understand for a generation.

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