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Major Alcohol Association Executives Urge Industry To Support Efforts To Legalize Marijuana



The top executives of a major alcohol association are rallying industry stakeholders to support its new policy backing federal marijuana legalization.

Both the chairman and CEO of Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) discussed the cannabis reform position with representatives of each three tiers of the alcohol industry at the association’s annual event Access LIVE this week.

“We believe that the successful state-based regulatory model [for alcohol], which has served America’s consumers and our industry so well, should be a part of the discussion” when it comes to marijuana, WSWA Chairman Tom Cole said. “I call upon my industry colleagues to support our efforts and to lend your voice and experience to the conversations happening on Capitol Hill.”

As part of its advocacy for federal reform, WSWA sent a letter to congressional leadership last month, imploring them to take action on the issue to resolve what they described as an untenable “conflict.”

The letter pointed to a policy brief the association first drafted in 2021 that lays out regulatory priorities that it says lawmakers should keep in mind as members work to replace prohibition with a legalization framework.

The brief says that policymakers should draw from the experience of alcohol regulations to develop a model for marijuana that promotes industry competition, innovation and public safety.

WSWA President Francis Creighton spoke to people in the wholesalers sector of the alcohol industry at this week’s conference about why the association is promoting federal cannabis reform.

“I think we can all agree that the federal government’s inaction on cannabis isn’t working for anyone—consumers and non-consumers,” he said.

“People don’t know, and often shouldn’t trust, that what they are putting into their bodies isn’t tainted product—because there is no federal standard for testing,” he added. “Consumers don’t know what the potency is—there is no standard for accuracy and no regulator at the federal level to ensure accurate labeling for dosing.”

WSWA came out in support of states rights to legalize cannabis in 2018 and followed up with a briefing on Capitol Hill to inform lawmakers and congressional staffers about its position.

In 2021, the association also endorsed a Senate bill to allow hemp derivatives such as CBD to be used in consumable products like foods, drinks and dietary supplements.

Some advocates see the alcohol association’s engagement on the issue as a boon to reform efforts, especially given its widespread network of members and connections to Congress.

Others have been skeptical about the industry and have warned against modeling marijuana after alcohol, arguing that it could disrupt state markets and threaten small businesses if they’re given too much influence over legalization legislation.

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