Wine, Dope and Unmentionable Truths

Marijuanawine There is a HUGE difference between Dope & Wine that isn't so huge. But before we get to that, consider this:

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.

I wonder…..

"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.

15 Responses

  1. wine of the month club - January 11, 2010

    Tom-It is definitely a comparison that the wine industry could do without. I do wonder how a potential legalization affects(if at all) the shipping arguments that are happening across the country, there are going to be plenty of scare tactics involved everywhere.
    It is going to be an interesting few months with the mary jane as well as gay marriage in the news here in California.

  2. Marcia - January 11, 2010

    Oh, that put a smile on my face! Particularly the imagined write up of your Wark Estate Pinot. Why is it one of Gilligan’s dream sequences about his fellow castaways came to mind…?

  3. El Jefe - January 11, 2010

    Perhaps my misspent youth can provide some guidance here. Marijuana can, in fact, taste good as a good cigar can (consider the Humboldt appellation), can make food taste different and better (mmmm… Doritos!), and can provide a celebratory edge to an occasion (some pretty good parties in college).
    But the fact is that as long as a market is underground it drains additional resources from the economy and doesn’t pay a fair tax burden. Your choices are to eliminate the market, or bring it up from underground.
    So the real issue is to stop throwing money at things that can’t be changed, and have those things start paying taxes and contributing properly to the above ground economy.
    Really liked your write up! I’ve got some acreage here that would be perfect to bring into production. Perhaps I’ll call you for PR help once I get that going 😉

  4. Michael Siegler - January 11, 2010

    I don’t know if I’m for or against legalizing marijuana, but I do understand the arguments for legalization.
    But the first thing I thought about when reading your post was exactly what El Jefe mentioned. Your reasons for drinking wine can certainly be extended to pot – especially if you like it.
    Maybe the societal norms will one day change. Throughout the globe though, the majority of developed countries outlaw marijuana. There are plenty of other things that feel good but are not tolerated by law or by society.

  5. Jeremy Parzen - January 11, 2010

    @Tom NOW we’re talking. Amen, good sir.

  6. Samantha - January 11, 2010

    I for one do not drink wine for the buzz, I drink it because it makes me fancy and stuff. Pot I smoke because the doctor told me I should and it is tax free

  7. Ned - January 11, 2010

    Cannabis has never been “marketed” by professionals so it’s hard to say how that would look, especially after a few decades.
    “The only acceptable reason to smoke dope is to get high.”
    That simply isn’t true. It’s a convenient simplification. There’s a common euphemism for getting “high”. Alcohol users prefer the the more socially acceptable term “relaxed”. Cannabis is a product that has it’s own connoisseurship. It has numerous varieties and flavors and users ingest
    to differing levels of effect.
    Cannabis and really all illegal drug Prohibition has been far greater and ongoing disaster than alcohol was. Yet since we institutionalized prohibition and spread it worldwide, bringing an end to the folly will be that much more difficult. We incentivized a black market and abdicated control to those running it. Prohibition proceeds have been funding criminals, dictators and terrorists for decades.
    Cannabis needs to be re-regulated in a way that is modeled on alcohol. Licensed growers and sellers, content measurement and quality assurance, excise taxes, etc. Let’s skip the three tier part though. It is impossible to design and implement a fair and effective medical exception. Imagine trying to design and implement a fair and effective exception for alcohol use.

  8. Karen - January 12, 2010

    Love the post! El Jefe makes some fine points, to which we should add the social element shared by Cannabis and wine.
    And, it seems to me, that national legalization and taxation would surely lead to a deficit-free country.

  9. Gary "Iron" Chevsky - January 12, 2010

    Hm… Provocative point, Tom, but not for me… I wish I could drink wine without ever getting buzzed or high. Love it for whimsy, and story, and taste, and most of all, for matching with food. After all, I was a foodie first – that drove me to winehood! I recognize that for many people you are right – wine helps them get uninhibited or relaxed, whatever.

  10. HelenBuehler - January 12, 2010

    Mendocino appellation paired with a fine Napa cab… breakfast of champions.

  11. Kris Sookma - January 12, 2010

    Very interesting post, I agree that they both have very similar traits. Many people also dont know how to pair wine properly, thats why we created a wine pairing guide

  12. Drea Helfer, DH Wine Compliance - January 12, 2010

    ….the thought of the TTB or the California ABC (I guess in this case it would be CA Dope Control) requiring licenses and permits similar to those for wine companies, makes my head hurt. Thanks for the interesting insight 🙂

  13. Cesar - January 12, 2010

    In my mind the comparison of legalizing weed because of the success of the Ca. wine industry is far fetched. From my own limited experience I know 10 tokers to every 1 wino. A better alcohol analogy would be prohibition. Most people know how well that went over, and currently there exists the same wild wild west atmosphere for weed today as it was for alcohol.

  14. Cesar - January 12, 2010

    PS I didn’t see Ned’s comment. That Panama Red must have kicked in. I agree Ned.

  15. kenny - January 13, 2010

    I wonder if they legalized it nationwide if Northern California could really compete. Living in Sonoma County and having gone to college in Humboldt, I know we could try. The reality though if it was legalized in California and caught on in other states, the tobacco belt could blow us away…or “smoke us” as it were. They’ve been growing combustible foliage for generations. They would be the “weed county” of the east. I can tell you from experience that smoking anything prior to drinking wine will alter the taste of the wine.

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