Wine, Dope and Unmentionable Truths
It appears likely that in November, Californians will vote on whether or not to legalize the sale and consumption of Marijuana and to tax it good and heavy. In some circles, the notion of selling and taxing Marijuana is being promoted by pointing to the success of California's wine industry in creating jobs, providing an economic engine for the state in general, and for creating tax revenue for the state. This recent article notes how legalization proponents are dragging wine's success into the debate:
"Wine Institute in 2006 reported the industry sustains 309,000 full-time jobs that generate $10.1 billion in wages. Factoring in excise and sales taxes, as well as taxes on corporate
profits and income taxes paid by workers, the study concludes the
industry provides $3.2 billion in revenue each year to state and local
governments. And that’s with the second-lowest excise tax on wine of
any state in the nation, just 20 cents a gallon."
With California's budget and government services in the dumper, that kind of comparison starts to look good to folks from all corners of the state that before would have cringed at the notion of legalizing dope.
But what about the real difference between dope and wine?
The only acceptable reason to smoke dope is to get high. Wine, however, while providing the same benefit as dope, has other acceptable reasons (or at least excuses) for drinking it.
Among the reasons we give to drink wine are
1. It tastes good
2. It makes foods taste better (or at least different)
3. It provides a traditionally celebratory edge to an occasion.
But let's face it, today the primary reason people obsess over, drink, collect, serve and sell wine is because the alcohol in the wine makes us feel good (or at least different). And this is the fact behind wine's success that almost always goes unspoken. So, in this respect, wine and dope are really not much different.
What's interesting is that the primary opposition to legalizing the sale of Marijuana in California will come from those who, down deep, don't approve of the primary reason we sell and drink wine: it's done primarily to get high. And this, despite the semi-acceptance of medical marijuana, is the primary reason that the sale of Marijuana will generate gobs of tax revenue just like the sale of wine does. There is an irony in here somewhere.
How interesting it is that in the 20 years I've been helping to promote and market wine, I've never once used the fact that drinking wine will make you feel different as a benefit of a product that I'm helping to sell and promote. That's a rhetorical comment. I haven't used this fact about wine in promotion and marketing because most people don't like to be reminded that the primary reason the drink wine is the same primary reason people smoke dope: to alter their perception of reality.
"The 2009 Wark Estate Pinot Noir not only exhibits nuanced aromas of smoke, cherry, bacon and cinnamon, it will also provide you with a means to alter your view of reality. With its 14% alcohol you can count on experiencing a soft and cushioned inebriation after no more than two glasses if you enjoy them fairly close to one another. The Wark Estate Pinot delivers a soft inebriation that, under the right conditions, will allow you to experience its medium body, long finish and distinct flavor characteristics it takes from the unique terroir of our estate vineyard located in the Russian River Valley appellation."
I don't think so.
So, what I'm looking forward to is the use of the wine comparison that is highly likely to emerge as the campaign for legalizing Marijuana ramps up here in California. At the very least, it's likely to be interesting, if not shrouded in unmentionable truths.