Pot may be on its way to beating pop. (Editor’s note: Yes, we know it’s called “soda” out here on the West Coast, but we didn’t want to mess with this writer’s lead.)
The U.S. legal cannabis industry is expected to reach $75 billion in sales by 2030, according to research firm Cowen & Co. That’s almost as large as the North American carbonated soft drink market in 2017.
With the industries’ diverging trajectories, weed may be poised to take the mantle as the larger industry. Cannabis is growing rapidly as more states legalize the plant. Nine states and Washington, D.C. now allow for recreational pot use. That means more than one in five American adults can smoke, vape, eat or drink it however they please. Cowen previously predicted that the market, assuming federal legalization, would reach $50 billion by 2026. That seems small now, according to analyst Vivien Azer.
“New forecasts suggest that the market is already that size,” she said in a note Wednesday.
Meanwhile, soda sales are on the decline as increasingly health-conscious consumers eschew sugary drinks. Per capita carbonated soft drink consumption declined to a 31-year low in the U.S. in 2016, according to Beverage-Digest, a trade publication. The market in North America fell to $76.4 billion last year from $78.3 billion in 2016, data from Euromontior International shows.
While soda may be eclipsed, the industry that’s hearing alarm bells is alcohol. Binge drinking rates declined in states with legal weed compared with states that allow only medical marijuana and those prohibiting any kind of pot, according to the note.
“We have consistently argued that cannabis and
alcohol are substitute social lubricants,” Azer said.