In Michigan Will Cannabis-infused Drinks Elbow Beer Off the Shelves?

In November, Michigan became the first Midwestern state to legalize the possession of marijuana for recreational use when Proposal 1 was passed with 55 percent of voters in favor. Major players in the fight were Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which supported the initiative, and Healthy and Productive Michigan, which opposed it.

 These two groups raised a lot of money by the end of their respective campaigns. According to nonprofit, nonpartisan Ballotpedia.org, Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol raised $2.27 million and Healthy and Productive Michigan as well as the Committee to Keep Pot Out of Neighborhoods and Schools raised $1.5 million.

Among the concerns raised by the opposition is the potential spike in traffic accidents if more drivers get high and slide behind the wheel; however, proving whether it’s happening or not could be tricky and pricey. Tests for the presence of marijuana take more time and are more expensive. A driver appearing to be impaired might be tested using only a Breathalyzer, which records blood alcohol levels on the spot and doesn’t cost as much.

The potential for increased tax revenues based on sales played a role in legalization. Projections vary among consulting groups, but Anderson Economic Group in Lansing projects that annual revenues will range from $127 million to $225 million by 2023.

Plus, difficult as this may be to believe if you have season tickets to any sporting events, beer consumption in the United States is down. Constellation Brands is the parent company of Corona and also manufacturers Svedka vodka and Robert Mondavi wines. It is hedging its bets by putting big money into the cannabis industry.

Constellation invested $4 billion in Canadian company Canopy Growth. According to the Canopy Growth website, Constellation acquired 104.5 million shares of stock resulting in about 38 percent ownership with a possible bump to 50 percent.

Euromonitor, a research firm, predicted that America’s legal marijuana market will zoom from $5.4 billion in 2015 to $20 billion by 2020. However, Constellation has said that it will not sell in the United States as long as cannabis is illegal on the federal level.  

Constellation isn’t the only beer manufacturer that’s thought hard about cannabis. According to an article on CNBC.com, in its shareholder report for fiscal year 2017, the Molson Coors Brewing Co. named cannabis one of the biggest potential threats to its business. Assuming the if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-’em approach taken by Constellation is followed by other beer manufacturers, they might find that owning a piece of the cannabis pie helps protect their bottom lines.

As Molson Coors put it in last year’s annual report to stockholders: “The emergence of legal cannabis in certain U.S. states and Canada may result in a shift of discretionary income away from our products or a change in preferences away from beer.” 

What is definite is the emergence of beverages containing THC, the ingredient that makes folks high, with companies including Molson Coors and Constellation in on the ground floor.

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