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Alberta beer not concerned with U.S. marijuana market reports

Apples to oranges comparison means only time will tell if weed affects sales

Alberta beer brewers aren't scared of the big bad toke, confident their product sets beer apart from marijuana market.

Helen Pike / Metro

Alberta beer brewers aren't scared of the big bad toke, confident their product sets beer apart from marijuana market.

When weed becomes legal, it’s unclear if Albertans swap suds for buds – but competing U.S. research suggests change could be in the air for alcohol sales. 

According to a study of weed-legal states, Cowen & Company found sales for the brewing craft industry were hit hardest in Colorado, Oregon and Washington, trailing national averages over the past two years. 

But another study by The Guardian found alcohol sales in Colorado have steadily increased, or seen no effect from legalization. 

These figures are being closely watched in Alberta, and across Canada, but to compare these two markets is an apples-and-oranges game, according to local brewers. 

Jim Button with Village Brewery said from where he sits big companies in the U.S. are crossing wires when they blame weed sales on a steady decline he says has been ongoing for some time.

“There’s so many other impacts on beer,” said Button. “In the U.S. the big player’s sales are down, and the small players, and wine, and to a lesser degree spirits, are the ones that are actually impacting that. You can now add marijuana to that list of things.” 

He said his sales have been going up, as big beer sales go down, but to blame it on marijuana isn’t fair. 

Button, who's also the director of Beer Canada, says taxes in both countries are so different, it’s hard to tell one way or the other what the market will look like when the feds legalize. The consumer reaction could differ depending on how heavily weed is taxed, compared to alcohol.

“I don’t see it as a competitor,” Button said. “There’s no way that you could tell me I can have marijuana and have the same feeling as fresh local beer with flavours I love – it’s just not the same thing.” 

Terry Rock with the Alberta Small Brewers association told Metro they have mostly been monitoring the situation in the U.S. through Beer Canada. 

“We’re confident that demand for Alberta-made craft beer is going to continue to expand in the foreseeable future, regardless of what happens with marijuana legalization,” said Rock. “There’s no substitute for the fresh taste of a local beer.”

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