As you’re no doubt very much aware, there’s a huge a seriously important debate going on right now in the US, with regard to the future of cannabis. We’re on the brink of seeing the number of states with legalized recreational cannabis doubled, while more than half of the country could soon permit medical marijuana. As for whether or not it happens, it all comes down to how the public votes come early November.
For the most part, it seems as if the balance is tipping at least modestly in favour of the yes camp. Given the extensive research carried out into the benefits of cannabis over recent years, people seem to be seeing it for what it really is – something good, and pretty much harmless. But at the same time, those seeking to keep it out of circulation are putting up one hell of a fight – a fight that’s intensifying as we step closer to the big day.
The thing is, on both sides of the fence the whole argument should come down to one thing only – whether or not cannabis legalization is in the best interests of the public. If it is, it should be legal. If not, it shouldn’t be. But what should be completely removed from the equation is anything to do with making money and big business in general. Given the fact that this is America we’re talking about though, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that big business has both a lot to say and plenty of influence.
Alcohol Sales Scare
Over in Massachusetts, the alcohol industry has declared war on the pro-cannabis camp, throwing tons of money into the ‘no’ campaign and working hard to keep cannabis off the streets. Why exactly? Well, they’ll of course tell you some BS about public health and kids etc., but in reality it’s about nothing more than cash. The Boston Beer Company even stated in an SEC filing earlier this year that “Certain states are considering or have passed laws and regulations that allow the sale and distribution of marijuana. It is possible that legal marijuana usage could adversely impact the demand for the Company’s products.” The Arizona Wine and Spirits Wholesale Association has also handed over $10,000 to a group opposing Prop. 205 in the state. We’d call this a smoking gun, but it’s not like we didn’t know it all before anyway.
So it’s a pretty clear standpoint as far as they’re concerned – screw what the public wants, just as long as beer sales stay as high as possible. In theory, their logic seems at least slightly grounded, given the way in which stoners don’t tend to swill down nearly as much beer as non-users. Indeed, the art of nursing a single beer for a whole smoking session is one many will be more than familiar with. But just as is the case with pretty much every other argument from the anti-cannabis camp, they appear to be basing their actions on presumptions and theories, as opposed to facts and evidence.
Nothing new there, then.
Bucking the Trend
Three years ago, an economics professor at the University of Colorado, Denver, by the name of Daniel Release published a report stating that legalized cannabis would inevitably lead to more people shunning alcohol in favour of weed. And indeed most of us would have said the same, but here we are with legal weed in more than a few states, and as far as the figures go, this isn’t what’s happening at all.
By taking a look at annual tax revenues from alcohol sales in both Washington and Colorado, it’s possible to see exactly what’s been going on in terms of sales, before and after the legalization of cannabis. Taxation of alcoholic products has not changed at all over these years, so this represents a good measure of sales and demand. What do these figures tell us? Something very simple yet rather surprising – tax income from alcohol sales in both states has actually remained on a steady incline throughout the whole period. So not only are cannabis sales not leading to a drop in alcohol sales, but alcohol sales are actually on the up.
In Colorado, the total annual tax tally from alcohol sales has been on the up every year since 2011. During the 24-month period leading up to the legalization of cannabis, alcohol tax revenues grew from $38.9 million to $40.1 million. And then following the legalization in 2014, the figure grew again over the next 12 months to just under $41 million. Again, they were up to $41.8 million.
It was a similar story in Washington too, where 2014’s total tally of $29.9 million increased in 2015 to $30.7 million, with 2016 having brought in $31.4 million so far. There’s not a great amount of detailed information to go on for Oregon, but research suggests that beer sales for 2016 are already up by around 15% compared to last year.
Which paints the clearest possible picture in black and white – alcohol sales are not in any way being detrimentally affected by legalized cannabis. If anything, legal weed is actually leading to an increase in beer sales. On a national basis, the years following the legalization of cannabis in key states actually bucked a nationwide trend, which has seen total alcohol sales slightly dipping.
What Really Matters
The thing is though, all of the above should technically be inconsequential as exactly how much the alcohol industry takes home should have nothing to do with the debate on legal weed. The public in general has nothing to gain from millions more dollars flying the way of the biggest beer companies, though the weight they have when it comes to swaying votes is pretty strong to say the least. And they’re not alone either – you may have picked up on a similar theme in one of our recent posts on the debate. Some of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in America are pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into anti-cannabis campaigns, in order to ensure demand for their own drugs remains as high as possible. Worse still, there’s now evidence of over $800 million having been thrown the way of senators and representatives across all 50 states, in order to ensure that drug-makers are given free rein to continue flooding the US with their dangerous, addictive and potentially deadly products.
Anyone with the slightest regard for public health will call this out as BS in an instant, but when there’s this kind of cash changing hands, anything goes. But what’s particularly frustrating about the whole alcohol debate is that if those involved bothered to do even a scratch of remedial research, they’d see that they’re technically campaigning for nothing. If anything, they’re just outing themselves for the (insert expletive here) they really are.
Cannabis and Beer in Harmony
On a related note…at least sort of…there’s yet more evidence today that cannabis and beer really can come together in perfect harmony. Literally, in fact. While the big beer bosses bitch about the prospect of poor profits, there are certain plucky folks out there finding new and innovative ways of joining old foes together.
It’s not as if there’s any kind of shortage of breweries in Colorado…quite to the contrary, to be frank. However, one Aurora brewery going by the name of “Dad & Dudes” has well and truly become the first to branch out in a very different direction.
“They’re coming from around the world wanting to try cannabis-infused beer,” said Mason Hembree, the “Dude” of Dad & Dudes.
That’s right, rather than separating beer and weed in any way, shape or form, they’ve decided to bring the two together. Some say mixing beer and cannabis isn’t a good idea, but for others it’s a match made in heaven. For those in the latter bracket, this is likely to prove one hell of a popular beverage.
And it’s not like it’s a fly-by-night idea that came out of nowhere. Not at all – these guys have been working on the recipe for some time and have been holding out for over a year to get the go-ahead form the federal government. As far as Hembree is concerned though, it won’t be long before General Washington’s Secret Stash goes on sale across the country.
“You know when we first released everybody believed, oh a Colorado brewery doing that make sense. But they didn’t think we could sell it outside Colorado,” he said.
“The coolest part is the fact that we can bring the debate about cannabis and beer to the entire country.”
Funnily enough, it turned out that getting federal permission was the least of his worries. Being totally against pot and beer, his mother wasn’t too pleased with the whole idea.
As for the bad news, given the fact that there’s no THC in it, it won’t get you high. Drunk perhaps if you drink enough of it, but no THC buzz.