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Big Beer Going After Bud with Big Bucks

Maureen Meehan

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big beer, liquor, drinking and smoking

We already know Big Pharma has been bankrolling legal weed in certain states, but now the alcohol industry is getting into the game of dissing the prospect of legalization, which could sweep into five states this coming November.

A new disclosure last week, reported by the Intercept, revealed that a beer industry group recently made one of the largest donations to an organization set up to defeat legalization in Massachusetts.

The Beer Distributors PAC, which represents 16 beer-distribution companies in Massachusetts, gave $15,000 to the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, making it one of their largest contributors.

This is not to say the alcohol industry is unified over the issue of legalization, however, according to the Intercept, Securities and Exchange Commission filings reveal that heavyweight alcohol companies have told investors that legal pot could pose a challenge to their bottom line.

Who then are these beer companies that want to keep pot illegal?

For starters, the Boston Beer Company, parent company of Sam Adams, told their investors that legal weed could adversely impact the demand for beer.

What makes anyone think beer and bud are mutually exclusive? Everyone knows they are not. Market data shows that people are most likely to ask “why choose?” than stick to only one or the other.

For example, Colorado already had a thriving craft brewing industry before it legalized weed in 2012. Since 2014, when pot became readily available in dispensaries, alcohol sales in Colorado went up, according to the Guardian.

“There’s definitely some crossover in the two communities of beer drinkers and herb enjoyers, but I don’t think people are doubling down in one category or the other,” New Belgium spokesman Bryan Simpson told the Guardian.

Here is a list—at least a partial one so far—of the alcohol companies trying to keep weed illegal published by VinePair:

  • The Arizona Wine and Spirits Wholesale Association donated $10,000 to the anti-marijuana group Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy in 2016.
  • The California Beer and Beverage Distributors donated $10,000 to the public safety first lobbying committee.
  • The Boston Beer Company, maker of Sam Adams, wrote that marijuana legalization could hurt the company in its 2014 10-K government document filing.
  • The Brown-Forman Company that brings you Jack Daniels and Finlandia Vodka also warned investors about marijuana legalization in a 2014 government filing.

As VinePair’s writer asks, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

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