California Marijuana Legalization Opposed by Beer Industry – duh!

by on September 22, 2010 · 21 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Election, Health, History

BEER-AND-MARIJUANA-largeby Ryan Grim / HuffPost – LA / September 21, 2010

The California Beer & Beverage Distributors is spending money in the state to oppose a marijuana legalization proposition on the ballot in November, according to records filed with the California Secretary of State. The beer sellers are the first competitors of marijuana to officially enter the debate; backers of the initiative are closely watching liquor and wine dealers and the pharmaceutical industry to see if they enter the debate in the remaining weeks.

The opposition to pot among beer makers, however, is not unanimous among the CBBD’s membership. Sierra Nevada and Stone Brewing Co., microbrews that began in California but have become popular national brands, both lashed out at the CBBD after news of the distributor’s donation was reported on Celebstoner.com, a popular website focusing on marijuana-related news, and Alternet.com.

“Stone is not a part of this campaign in any way. This issue has caught us off guard,” said a statement from the San Diego-based microbrewery, calling itself “merely a non-voting Allied Member of the CA Beer & Beverage Distributors (CBBD).As such, Stone Brewing does not/cannot participate in the political action decisions of the CBBD.”

A statement from Sierra Nevada said that the company has “requested the CBBD to remove our name from their list of members, and also to disassociate the brewery from this and any future political actions.”

The last thing a California microbrew needs is to be associated with the effort against legalizing marijuana. “We regret any implied association with this action by the CBBD, and maintain our independence and neutrality regarding matters of politics,” the Sierra statement said. “The CBBD does not represent Sierra Nevada’s political interests in any way, and does not represent the brewery’s stance on the issue.”

The CBBD did not return calls for comment; it donated $10,000 to Public Safety First, a committee organized to oppose the proposition, on Sept. 7, 2010, though the contribution was only recently made public. The alcohol industry has long seen illicit drugs as a threat to sales, as consumers may substitute pot for booze. A night spent on the couch smoking marijuana and watching television is a night not spent at the bar.

Public Safety First is largely funded by a different industry whose interests are threatened by the legalization of marijuana: law enforcement. Police forces are entitled to keep property seized as part of drug raids and the revenue stream that comes from waging the drug war has become a significant source of support for local law enforcement. Federal and state funding of the drug war is also a significant supplement to local forces’ budgets.

The California Narcotics Officers’ Association has donated $20,500; the California Police Chiefs Association has contributed $30,000. The Placer County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, the California Peace Officers Association, the California District Attorney Association and the Peace Officers Association of Los Angeles County have all contributed, as well. Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca has been an outspoken opponent. Earlier this months, current and former heads of the Drug Enforcement Administration held a press conference in Washington to oppose the proposition and urge the White House to sue to stop it if it passes.

The pro-legalization forces, however, have caught at least one break: The prison guards are staying neutral. One of the most potent political forces in California is the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. The prison guards spent more than a million dollars in 2008 to defeat a proposition that would have sent some nonviolent drug offenders into treatment rather than to prison — a law that would have cut down on overcrowding and overtime.

So far, the prison guards’ bosses have gotten involved — the California Correctional Supervisors Organization has given $7,500 — but the guards themselves are on the sidelines.

Advocates for Proposition 19, meanwhile, are running the campaign on a shoestring budget. Wealthy individuals who generally bankroll the legalization movement such as Peter Lewis, the head of Progressive auto insurance, are sitting out.

Organized labor, however, is stepping into the breach. The Service Employees International Union, a major presence in California, has endorsed the proposition. The Teamsters in September made its first successful foray into organizing pot growers. The United Food and Commercial Workers is backing the initiative and organizing cannabis club employees in the Bay Area. The teachers union, citing the revenue that could be raised for the state, is also backing the initiative.

On Saturday, Roger Salazar, a spokesman for Public Safety First, was confronted on CNN over his group’s alliance with the beer distributors. He blamed it on the forklift operators. “Let’s keep in mind the beer and beverage distributors are the folks who deliver beer and beverage products. The truck driver, the forklift drivers, you know, the warehouse workers. You know, these are folks who have traffic safety and employee safety issues, first and foremost,” Salazar said, though the beer distributors are the only distributor of any product to oppose the proposition.

Mason Tvert, head of the organization SAFER, which makes the case that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, told Salazar that driving or operating a fork lift while high would still be illegal if the proposition becomes law — just as alcohol is legal but it’s against the law to drive while drunk.

“With all due respect to this gentleman, he is a political consultant being paid by the booze industry to protect their turf,” said Tvert. “We also need to consider the fact that this gentleman mentions all the jobs that are created by the alcohol industry. These are all jobs that can be created by the marijuana industry as well. And at the same time, we’re giving Californians the ability to use a substance like marijuana that doesn’t contribute to domestic violence and sexual assault and overdose… and all the other problems that alcohol contributes to.”

Stephen Gutwillig, the state director for the Drug Policy Alliance in California, noted the irony of cops working together with the beer lobby. “Who knows better than law enforcement the violence, death and disease booze inflicts on our society? The Feds clock it at $200 billion a year, including alcohol’s direct involvement in up to 30 percent of violent crime every year. Marijuana consumption has none of those associations. The cop-run No on 19 campaign getting in bed with the alcohol lobby would be amusing if the implications weren’t so nauseating,” he said.

UPDATE: Rhonda Stevenson, a spokesman for the CBBD, said that the lobby does not oppose legalizing marijuana in principle, but objects to the specific proposition. She added that Sierra Nevada and Stone do not contribute to their Political Action Committee, so none of their money has been invested in opposition to the initiative.

“First and foremost, we are not opposed to the legalization of marijuana. We have no position on that…That’s for the voters to decide. Second of all, we do not think of [marijuana] as a competitive product in the marketplace,” she said. “That’s not the issue. Our issue is it’s a poorly written initiative. When prohibition was repealed, there was already a regulatory system in place to deal with the distribution or sale of alcohol. Under this initiative, there is not going to be anything in place state run. It’s going to be 500-some different counties and cities” involved in regulating the sale and distribution of marijuana.

Indeed, when California legalized medical marijuana, regulation moved in fits and starts in different parts of the state. Oakland, where medical pot was more pervasive, moved to regulate dispensaries long before Los Angeles did, for instance. Different communities had different responses to legalization. If marijuana is legalized for recreational uses, as well, it’s reasonable to assume that there will be accompanying regulatory failures and successes in various parts of the state. Localities, however, will be able to rely to some degree on the experience over the past 14 years with medical marijuana.

To go to the original article and all its links, go here.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar BillRayDrums September 22, 2010 at 9:05 am

Stone Brewery huh. That’s too bad- I rather enjoyed an Arrogant Bastard here and there.

Never again.

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avatar Jon September 22, 2010 at 9:19 am

Wait BillRay!! Here’s Stone’s official statement regarding the matter:

*For the record, here’s our official statement on the matter:

“Stone is not a part of this campaign in any way. This issue has caught us off guard. We are merely a non-voting Allied Member of the CA Beer & Beverage Distributors (CBBD). As such, Stone Brewing does not / cannot participate in the political action decisions of the CBBD.

The organization that most directly represents the political interests of the Stone Brewing Co. is the California Small Brewers Association (CSBA), and the CSBA organization does not make a habit of chiming in, one way or the other, on non-beer related political issues. Same for the Stone Brewing Co…we’re not political animals and we prefer to keep it that way.

We regret that it has been inferred that Stone is associated with this decision of the CBBD, as quite simply, we are not.”

So feel free to crack open that Arrogant Bastard! I know I will!

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avatar Jon September 22, 2010 at 9:23 am

Furthermore, it would not surprise me at all if we see multiple micro-breweries cutting ties with the CBBD, as most microbrew drinkers (at least most of those I know) tend to enjoy a toke with their IPA…. Bud not Bud. ;)

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avatar BillRayDrums September 22, 2010 at 4:47 pm

I emailed them a big thing this AM, then had to send an “oops” right afterwards.

Ugh. I guess I’m the Arrogant Bastard. :D

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avatar captkeebz September 23, 2010 at 12:34 am

Sorry, not good enough for me. They need to drop membership with this group or have its leadership changed before I’ll use their products again. Too bad, I live just down the street from where they started and have been a big fan as they’ve grown.

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avatar Jon September 23, 2010 at 9:33 am

Ugh….I’m not gonna boycott Stone Brewery because they happen to be a non-voting member of this org. And I certainly don’t think you’re gonna have a whole lot of supporters in your picket line. They’ve already issued statements condemning the campaign. I’m so sick of freakin’ boycotts. Everyone is so quick to boycott everything. Get over yourself. Go smoke a bowl, drink a good beer and chill out.

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avatar captkeebz September 23, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Do what you will. I’m sure I’ll be back to drinking St0ne and Sierra again soon enough, damn good beer. What is certain is that inaction on your part will allow others to make decisions for you. They didn’t put out this statement until a fuss had been made.

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avatar Jon September 24, 2010 at 9:35 am

Well at least I don’t allow over-reacting blog posters to make decisions for me either. Have fun in your picket line of 1.

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avatar captkeebz September 24, 2010 at 10:04 am

Man, you’re really angry about this. If I didn’t know any better I’d think you were somebody’s shill. Just relax. Last post, no backsies!

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avatar Jon September 24, 2010 at 10:05 am

You know, perhaps I’m taking the wrong approach here, and I should explain why I’m so quick to defend Stone Brewing Co. rather than vilify you for doing what you think is right.

Stone Brewery is an organization that San Diegans should be extremely proud of. They helped put San Diego on the map as an epicentre of micro-brewing. They raise hundreds of thousands of dollars every year for charities like the YMCA, Surfrider Foundation, Boys & Girls Club, Fight ALD and others. Their restaurant uses sustainable, organic produce and naturally raised meats with no hormones or antibiotics, just as their beer is free of preservatives and artificaial flavoring. They made a very clear statement that they are not in any way associated with the the decision of the CBBD and are not a political organization. If they said so after the “fuss” had been made, my guess is that is because it was the first time it was brought to their attention. In my opinion, they did the right thing and I will continue to support what I consider an upstanding and socially responsible San Diego business. I believe there are far greater issues that we could be wasting our time on the internet squabbling about. Peace.

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avatar captkeebz September 24, 2010 at 10:11 am

Ah, much better argument. As I said earlier, I’m also a fan of the company and have no desire to put them out of business. Peace back atcha.

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avatar Frank Gormlie September 25, 2010 at 8:47 am

Nice way to come back.

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avatar donofcali September 22, 2010 at 9:54 am

“A night spent on the couch smoking marijuana and watching television is a night not spent at the bar.”

More importantly, it’s a night where someone is not driving home drunk from a bar. All the opposition is based on money. Individual freedom trumps narcotics division budgets. Pass 19.

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avatar Goatskull September 22, 2010 at 10:42 am

The makers of Dorritos and Oreos support the legalization of marijuana.

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avatar annagrace September 22, 2010 at 11:43 am

The makers of Lucky Charms cereal too. LOL…

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avatar Goatskull September 22, 2010 at 11:46 am

And Coco Puffs.

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avatar Jon September 22, 2010 at 12:04 pm

I think it’s much ado about nothing really. The type of stoners that smoke themselves into oblivion and eat giant bowls of cereal while playing video games on the couch all day will exist whether pot is legal or not, and the type of high-functioning stoners that like to smoke and be a little more active will also be around. The CBBD just really screwed up on this one.

Just remember to buy stock in the 3N’s once it is legalized: Nintendo, Nabisco, and Nutella.

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avatar captkeebz September 23, 2010 at 12:39 am

Not good enough, Stone and Sierra. You are allowing this group to represent you, and in this fight $10,000 is real money. Better take a stronger stand or shake things up at the CBBD.

Here is a California Beer & Beverage Distributors list of member companies with contact info and brands:
https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1ds1kjDDAPB1PKHDqAA7SRi8aw8uGmUz7yMTqdtBwpyE

It genuinely saddened me to see some of the companies on here including Sierra Nevada, Stone (who I’m right down the street from), and New Belgium. Please contact your favorites and tell them how you feel. Personally, I’ve contacted them all and let them know that I’m boycotting their products until I hear a public reversal of this.

Vote yes on Prop. 19. A vote for responsibility, reason, and California.

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avatar butch September 23, 2010 at 8:46 am

“A statement from Sierra Nevada said that the company has “requested the CBBD to remove our name from their list of members, and also to disassociate the brewery from this and any future political actions.”

Sounds like Sierra Nevada is no longer allowing the group to represent them.

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avatar captkeebz September 23, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Yeah, I get it. What I want is for the CBBD to get the point, and the best way for that to happen is to wake up their members, which apparently is happening.

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avatar Goatskull September 23, 2010 at 5:13 pm

For me I just don’t care that much. I’ll vote in favor of 19 put if it doesn’t pass life will go on. I will not stop drinking a certain brand of beer just because of their stance on this.

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