Could Replacing Beer With (Legal) Bong Hits be a Smart Money Move?

legal weed
Rachael Torricelli looks at marijuana for sale at Blum in Las Vegas on Oct. 27, 2016. AP Photo/John Locher

Ganja. Green. Herb. Mary Jane. Cannabis. Chronic.

No matter what you call it, one thing is obvious: The marijuana industry is booming. Marijuana use is legal in some form in 26 states plus Washington, D.C. About 24.6 million Americans legally purchased pot in the last year alone.  

According to a recent study from Cannabiz Consumer Group, good ol’ (legal) Mary Jane is making beer drinkers put down their pints and pick up their bongs.

Of the study’s respondents, 27% of beer drinkers said they have substituted marijuana for beer — or they would if pot were legal in their state. In states where recreational pot is now legal, beer sales have reportedly lagged.

This got our Penny Hoarder brains thinking: No matter how you feel about marijuana legalization, is making the switch from craft beer to craft chronic a money-saving move?

How Much Does it Cost to Drink Beer?

In 2015, consumers purchased the equivalent of 2.8 billion 24-packs of beer in the U.S. In all, the U.S. beer industry sells more than $100 billion worth of beer and malt-based beverages each year.

If you’re an average beer drinker (you are at least the legal drinking age, right?), you ingested about 27.5 gallons of beer and cider during 2015.

Let’s put that in perspective: A typical bottle of beer has 12 ounces. A gallon is 128 ounces. That means the average beer consumer drank about 294 servings of beer in 2015.

Clearly they were double fisting. Or doing keg stands. Maybe a beer funnel was involved. It’s OK — we’ve all been there.

And the cost? Well, it depends on where you live and purchase your beer, but a 2014 survey by Survey Analytics says the average customer spends $1,270 on beer in a year.

Talk about an expensive novelty!

How Much Does it Cost to Smoke Pot?

So, the legal cannabis industry may be fairly new, but it’s no joke.

More people are smoking pot than you may think — about 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. has legally purchased pot since states began passing laws legalizing it in 1996. About 40% of adults who have no access to legal marijuana say they would purchase it if they could do so legally.

Headset Inc. also says the median spending for the “average” cannabis consumer was $647 annually. The data was pulled from more than 40,000 legal marijuana purchases in the state of Washington from September 2014 to July 2016.

According to Headset Inc., a company that specializes in cannabis use data, the average trip to a marijuana dispensary runs people between $25 and $50, and most people wait an average 19.5 days before hitting up the shop again.

(Note: The data was collected for the “average” cannabis consumer in Washington state. Some states have restrictions on how much ganja you can buy at one time, whereas there usually isn’t a limit to how much booze you can walk out of a store with.)

Is It Time to Light One Up?

According to our rough calculation, if the average beer consumer completely swapped beer and became an average legal marijuana consumer, they’d spend a whopping $623 less per year.

This 2014 report from The Washington Post also suggests that compared to the cost of alcohol, marijuana prices are a bargain.

Let’s not forget that alcohol use has considerably higher health costs than marijuana, according to most reports. Just sayin’.

Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world. We don’t know how many of those people smoking pot legally at an average cost of $647 per year are also spending $1,270 a year on beer. We also don’t know a lot of things, like how much of that beer drinkers would swap with pot, or how frequently they’d consume pot if they gave up beer.

But in the name of good fun, we might as well say the grass (LOL) and your wallet could be greener on the other side when it comes to beer versus pot.  

Your Turn: Do you think you’d save money by smoking pot instead of drinking beer?

Kelly Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Catch her on Twitter at @keywordkelly.

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