While most economists watch the development of legalized marijuana sales in Colorado for the possible impact on revenues and taxes, some are taking a side view of its significance on alcohol sales. According to Forbes magazine, identifying the impact of marijuana legalization on alcohol consumption is the most important thing that no one knows.

University of Montana economist, D. Mark Anderson and University of Montana, along with the University of Colorado economist, Daniel Rees, agree that “studies based on clearly defined natural experiments generally support the hypothesis that marijuana and alcohol are substitutes”. As supporting evidence, the researches point to a significance rise in marijuana use among teenagers before the age of twenty-one, that drops when they are legally old enough to consume alcohol. Another study indicated that beer sales dropped in states that had legalized medical marijuana, along with the consumption of hard alcohol.

Even more significantly, statistics show a thirteen percent drop in alcohol related traffic fatalities in states that have legalized medical marijuana use. According to the US National Library of Medicine, drunk drivers are responsible for 25% of all vehicular accidents involving fatalities. Although alcohol combined with marijuana continues to have a detrimental effect, cannabis alone has not been proven to have greatly impair a person’s ability to drive.

Researchers remark that this is due to the awareness of marijuana users that their automatic reflexes are somewhat impaired while driving. They compensate by using a variety of behavioral strategies to maintain more caution while under the influence of cannabis, while those whose faculties are impaired by alcohol do not. They recommend that the two drugs should not be combined while driving.

Apart from the detrimental effects of alcohol versus marijuana consumption, the International Business Times purports that there are at least two hundred medical conditions that could be safely treated with medical marijuana, whereas prescription drugs all have their drawbacks. Prescription drugs kill approximately 100,000 people worldwide on a yearly basis, yet there is absolutely no case of marijuana use ever killing anyone.

It is predicted that marijuana legalization can have a significant impact on the alcohol and pharmaceutical drug industry, but that it could also energize the economy of the states that legalize and monitor its use. With fewer alcohol related fatalities, it could also have a significant impact on public health.