Beer will be the most exposed alcohol category to cannabis as the legal market for the drug explodes over the next few years, Euromonitor has said.

Warning that research on cannabis remains inconclusive, Euromonitor analysts said in a presentation this week that the beer category is in danger because of the crossover between beer drinkers and cannabis users. In comparison, wine "tends to be in equilibrium with the ascendant cannabis industry", the analysts explained.

The recreational use of cannabis is set to become legal across Canada from July next year. A handful of US states have already legalised its use, with more expected to follow over the next few years. Alcohol companies are already moving to take advantage of the loosening of restrictions, with Constellation Brands at the end of October agreeing to purchase a near-10% stake in Canada-based medicinal cannabis company Canopy Growth Corp. However, what effect legalisation will have on alcohol sales is still unclear. A Bernstein report from earlier this year stated that early indications suggest "beer and weed are complements rather than substitutes".

In this week's webinar Euromonitor said cannabis's threat to alcohol sales through cannibalisation was "very real". According to the analyst, by 2020 the legal cannabis market is expected to be worth US$8bn in Canada and $16bn in the US.

Euromonitor said alcohol companies may be able to bridge the gap between drinkers and cannabis smokers through premium offerings. It said craft beer and small-scale wineries "appeal to a similar sense of connoisseurship" found in premium cannabis and both use the same descriptive language, with words such as bouquet, strains, appellations and nose.

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