Wine and Marijuana: Political and Economic Competitors

Come November, Colorado, Oregon and Washington residents will vote on whether to fully legalize and fully regulate (like alcohol) marijuana. What’s really interesting is that the backers of these initiatives take alcohol regulation as their model. In fact, in Colorado, the initiative (Prop 64) to legalize Marijuana is called “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol“. Meanwhile, serious people in California are looking to get the “Regulate Marijuana like Wine” initiative on the ballot there.

One wonders where the alcohol industry stands on this potential newcomer to the legal marketplace of mind altering products.

It’s fair and logical to assume that the alcohol industry does not like the idea of competition in the legal mind altering product category. Alcohol has this category pretty much sewed up. But the fact is, it’s a fairly good guess the alcohol industry dislikes not only the rhetorical effort to promote marijuana legalization with reference to alcohol and wine (“Regulate Marijuana Like Wine” and “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol”), but don”t even like the legalization discussion to happen at all.

The reason they can’t like it is this:

“Every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it is far safer than alcohol and cigarettes for the consumer and the surrounding community. Alcohol and tobacco are more toxic, more addictive, and more harmful to the body than marijuana, and alcohol is more likely to result in injuries and lead to interpersonal violence. According to an assessment recently published in the British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Journal, health-related costs for alcohol consumers are eight times greater than those for marijuana consumers, and those for tobacco consumers are are 40 times greater than those for marijuana consumers.”

Alcohol is demonized every time it is mentioned in the same sentence with pot. And it’s usually demonized with a splash of references to hypocrisy. Just recently it was pointed out that the now infamous Missouri legislator who found magical qualities in women’s vaginas (Rep. Akin) is also squarely opposed to pot legalization. Yet, as this story points out, he’s happy to take thousands upon thousands of dollars from the National Beer Wholesalers of America as well as Budweiser-INBEV.

Then there was the discussion of moms who smoke pot being a little peeved at the hypocrisy of being judged by moms that drink a bottle of Chardonnay every night.

The demonetization of alcohol at the hands pot reformers and moms is one thing. The industry can handle that by being fairly quiet and staying out of the discussion. I think what is more worrying to the alcohol industry is the competition that legal marijuana posses.

There is not an alcohol produce in their right mind in the world who will play up the mind-altering qualities of their product. it is equally true that there is not an alcohol producer in their right mind anywhere in the world that does not appreciate the selling point of alcohol being a mind altering substance. Anyone who does not believe that one reason alcohol is a successful product is due to the fact that it will change the drinkers perception just doesn’t understand the first principles of human nature.

One of the problems with legalized marijuana sales is that when, after legalization, we have various proposals to tweak the way marijuana is sold, taxed, distributed and used, it is nearly impossible to not consider whether the same proposal ought to be applied to alcohol. This in turn forces the alcohol industry to have to confront more attempts to control alcohol sales, taxes, distribution and use. Not good. Not good at all.

I have no hard evidence on this next point. But suspect it true. I don’t think alcohol producers or their representatives will weigh in at all on the question of ballot initiatives that seek to legalize pot this year or when they appear subsequently in other states in the years to come. However, I do suspect that we will see a good chunk of change going from individual owners and shareholders of alcohol companies to the “No on Legalization” campaigns.

The legalization of marijuana strikes me as similar to the legalization of same sex marriage. Politically, it’s something I believe will most certainly come as more and more Americans witness the fact that a person who gets stoned isn’t necessarily guaranteed to become a crackhead. It’s about familiarity and knowing someone who smokes pot and didn’t turn into a crackhead. The “coming out” movement drove forward  gay rights in ways no other effort could as it demonstrated to those people culturally or spiritually opposed to homosexuality that people they knew and respected were gay. I imagine a similar kind of movement to “smoke out” marijuana users would have the same kind of impact.

However, I think the effort to legalize marijuana will be more difficult than the effort to legalize gay marriage. There is little in the way of litigation that can help supporters of marijuana legalization as there is for supporters of same sex marriage. Further, the federal government has a variety of jurisdictional claims and noteworthy carrots and sticks that can slow the legalization effort if such a stance becomes the position of the Executive branch.

Yet, while Americans slowly come around to marijuana legalization, don’t look for the alcohol industry to take kindly to efforts by competitors to take away market share.

However, there is one caveat to this general and reflexive opposition to competition that the alcohol industry possesses: What kind of business are you aware of that is very good at cultivating, processing, packaging, marketing, distributing and selling mind altering substances? Furthermore, at least in California—which often sets the tone for innovative commercial activity—there is a belief that positioning marijuana use and sales as being no different than wine use and sales will get the job done. Here is the language of the California initiative that will come to the ballot and here is a portion of that language if you had any doubts about the linkage of wine and dope:

“regulations shall not prohibit marijuana farming, the operation of marijuana establishments or point of sale outlets, either expressly or through regulations that make their operation different than wine or beer regulations and fees...Should the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control fail to have procedures in effect by this date, it shall use forms presently used for wine and beer, and replace the words wine, beer, alcohol, with the word marijuana, and accept and process those forms within sixty days of submission or approval is automatic.”


16 Responses

  1. Sally Johnson - September 5, 2012

    If a state legalized marijuana what else are they going to legalize next? There is a difference between fine wines and marijuana. This is a little crazy.

  2. John - September 5, 2012

    This is a bit of a canard, Tom. Most non-addicted people drink beer, wine and spirits for reasons that have primarily to do with taste and the minor soothing of the cares of the day. People who are not smoking pot for the anti-nausea effects are explicitly smoking it to get high. And while I have seen some wax poetic about the sensory merits of one sort of bud versus another chronic, I don’t think we will ever see someone reaching for a particular blunt because it goes with a meal like we routinely do wine. As an alcohol producer (albeit a tiny player) I can say that I feel absolutely zero competition for dollars from marijuana.

  3. Tom Wark - September 5, 2012

    No doubt that pot does not possess the same aesthetic potential as wine. (though, consider cigar culture).

    However, I’d argue that the “minor soothing of the cares of the day” can be equally addressed by either Marijuana or wine (or any alcohol). However, your point is a good one as those that directly oppose the linking of marijuana and wine will point to exactly the same thing that you have. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Tom Wark - September 5, 2012


    Can you explain the specific differences you are thinking about?


  5. John Rudolph - September 5, 2012

    I will wade in on this with an observation. What is usually lost in the rhetoric on the pot legalization supporters. There are studies that are confirming a strong link between schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses and heavy marijuana use by young adults. One reason may be that brain development continues well into young adulthood. If a young person starts using marijuana steadily at age 16 he or she could potentially be exposed for ten years before their brain is fully developed. The pot industry doesn’t want to acknowledge the serious consequences to mental health of heavy use of marijuana This may be why many mental health organizations oppose legalization. It isn’t the harmless drug as they represent.

    • Bobbi - September 12, 2012

      John Rudolph, Sally, and others:
      Correlations between schizophrenia and marijuana are not causal; it is more likely that the schizophrenics look for mind-altering substances for relief. If everytime I go to an ATM the stock market goes up, does not mean it is causal, despite being perfectly correlated. Correlations are easy to find; causality is more elusive. Many PhD researchers make this mistake and jump to the wrong conclusions.

      Sally, why should ANYTHING be “next” to be legalized??? Why should adults not have the right to ingest whatever they wish, as long as their BEHAVIOR is not hostile or irresponsible?

      Marijuana, besides a plethora of medical benefits, offers sleep aid, pain relief, and relaxation. Just as we sip a glass of wine or two to relax, a marijuana user might have a toke or eat a piece of cannabis chocolate, to similarly relax. Just as the wine drinker need not get falling-over drunk, the marijuana user need not get excessively high.

      Lastly, physiologically, mentally, and socially, alcohol is FAR more detrimental to society than marijuana. Alcohol often makes people aggressive and irresponsible, not to mention that it can be lethal. No one has ever died from marijuana OD– they just sleep for a while. Marijuana does not make users aggressive and has much less debilitating effects than alcohol in large quantities. Between the two, alcohol is FAR more harmful on all fronts.

      But again– shouldn’t responsible adults have the right to choose whether they want to ingest marijuana or alcohol? It is not the substance/intoxicant, it is what people DO when under the influence. DUI should be illegal no matter what the intoxicant, but eating some cannabis chocolate before bedtime to sleep better, or to have a toke after a long day’s work, should be NO ONE’s business but the adult. Judge people on what they DO, not what they ingest.

  6. Jim Mo - September 6, 2012

    It’s a pity that we have to be confined by this regulatory mindset. What’s wrong with freedom? What’s wrong with treating Americans like adults, the way they were regarded before the progressive era that brought us the notions like controlled substances and prohibition?

    Do I care if my neighbor smokes pot? Do I care if he enjoys a glass of wine? Does legalizing either mean I am certain to be a junkie or a lush? What nonsense. Isn’t it about time to just say no to Big Bro? Or would that be bad for business?

  7. Bill - September 6, 2012

    While Cannabis is demonstrably safer than either alcohol or tobacco I see almost no conflict politically or economically. Regarding “aesthetic” potential, all 3 can be subject to levels of sophistication, I would say wine>pot>tobacco. Regarding health, tobacco is probably out of the picture and cannabis well exceeds wine in healthful aspects but the phenolics of red wine are pretty well proven to have positive effects on heart disease and cancer. All 3 have recreational/hedonistic aspects that are more important to the average consumer than anything else, and all 3 really need to have some level of regulation ie age limits etc. Laws against Cannabis in the US are simply wrong, ridiculous and often indefensible (Schedule I, are we out of our minds?) Lastly, i did enjoy a nice glass of 2005 “Green Wine” with a Sherman cigarette last night without failing to do my job today, a visit to the emergency room or a random act of violence. They were all pleasant diversions before bed!

  8. Bob Miller - September 6, 2012

    I am writing from the standpoint of being an early baby boomer. As a Psychology major during the 60’s there was a lot going on. One good aspect of the legalization of cannabis is that wineries will finally be legally able to make their combined product. It is being done today, and there have been articles/blogs noting this, but this would make it legal. I haven’t had any of the recent products but I did enjoyed some delicious Columbian Zinfandel back in the 70’s made by a small winery in the Livermore Valley. Having worked in the wine/liquor industry for almost 30 years I saw a lot of “adults” abuse all forms of alcoholic beverages. Of the three primary gorups wine was by far the least abused if you don’t count the high proof wines the winos bought. As far as it having an affect on teens it won’t be much different from now. If they want it they can get it whether legal or not just as they do booze. Just my 2 cents worth.

  9. schmoo - September 6, 2012

    Surprisingly, there is an increasing interest in the aesthetics of fine cannabis. Certainly strains are selected for the nuances of their psycho-active effects, but considering the quality of the aroma and texture of the smoke has become a major topic. Having tried numerous times to match the terroir of wine to a given nuances of a given heirloom strain. I concede that the task is impossible. But it is sometimes fun to try. Two wines can be evaluated, but with the strength of the spleef these days, you can’t make it to the third. : = )

  10. Good Reads Wednesday « Artisan Family of Wines - September 12, 2012

    […] […]

  11. animated props special effects orlando - October 18, 2013

    I’ll immediately seize your rss feed as I can’t in finding your e-mail subscription link or newsletter service. Do you have any? Please permit me recognise so that I may subscribe. Thanks.

  12. kitchen exhaust hood - March 3, 2014

    Just wish to say your article is as astonishing. The clarity in your submit is simply excellent and that i
    can think you are knowledgeable in this subject. Well
    along with your permission allow me to seize your feed to stay updated with drawing close post.
    Thanks one million and please continue the rewarding work.

  13. mobile games - April 14, 2014

    Hmm is anyone else having problems with the pictures on
    this blog loading? I’m trying to figure out if its a problem on
    my end or if it’s the blog. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  14. Kristine - April 27, 2014

    I don’t know whether it’s just me or if everyone else
    encountering problems with your website. It appears as if some of the text on your content
    are running off the screen. Can someone else please provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to them
    as well? This may be a issue with my browser because I’ve had this happen previously.

  15. - April 30, 2014

    Thanks , I’ve just been searching for information about this subject
    for a long time and yours is the greatest I’ve came upon so
    far. However, what about the bottom line? Are you positive
    about the source?

Leave a Reply