The case for parity in alcohol and cannabis beverage marketing, promotion, and distribution in Canada

Research data shows the consumption of alcoholic beverages adversely affects the Canadian economy to the amount of $14.5 billion annually in health care, criminal justice, and lost productivity costs – a staggering 14 times the costs for cannabis ($1 billion). As a known carcinogen, alcohol has been directly linked to many chronic health conditions, including cancer, diabetes, and liver disease, among others.

In October 2018, Canada enacted The Cannabis Act, allowing the legalization of recreational use of cannabis in bud and flower format. As the first G7 nation to federally legalize cannabis use, Canada has elected to further introduce legislation regarding edibles, ingestible products containing cannabis, but delayed its enactment up to 12 months later.

Cannabis is a substance with epidemiological evidence to support its use as an alcohol substitute. With many medicinal and therapeutic applications, using the more than 100 known cannabinoids (CBD’s) of the plant, cannabis currently behaves as an alternative to polypharmacological health treatments. Use as a psychoactive ingredient in edibles with the inclusion of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) transforms cannabis into a social stimulant in addition to the aforementioned medicinal effects.

The federal government’s stated policy objectives for cannabis are driven by the dual aims of harm reduction and health protection, in addition to eliminating the black market. These aims will help to improve the effectiveness of limiting and restricting youth consumption, and reduce the impact of illegal activities, and their respective harms to society.

Harm reduction is a key objective of the Canadian government when considering alcohol use and abuse. Spanning several years of data collection, recommendations for the reduction of consumption have not considered the possibility of cannabis as an alternate beverage, as this was not legally possible at the time. With the opportunity to now offer healthier, less harmful beverages infused with cannabis, this document will demonstrate the many ways that these cannabis-infused beverages can play an important role in Canada’s harm reduction and health protection strategies.

Central to the success of these policies is the requirement to make cannabis-infused beverages accessible to consumers in a convenient and open manner while controlling access to minors. This document recommends selling cannabis beverages alongside federally and provincially regulated alcohol products in the same retail environments. Liquor stores, beer stores, grocery stores, agencies, and restaurants should offer beverages containing cannabis as an alternative to their alcoholic counterparts.

Economically, allowing cannabis-infused and alcoholic products to co-exist on retail shelves together will produce a potential cost savings to the Canadian government in the region of $4 billion annually.


Alanna Sokic