Alcohol Distributors Make Push for Federal Legalization of Marijuana, Implore Congress to Act
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Alcohol Distributors Make Push for Federal Legalization of Marijuana, Implore Congress to Act

Alcohol Distributors Make Push for Federal Legalization of Marijuana, Implore Congress to Act

(Photo: Scott Takushi/Pioneer Press via AP)

One of the largest alcohol distributors, Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA), has called on Congress to legalize marijuana on the federal level this month. The wholesaler argued the continued classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug has “given rise to an untenable conflict between state and federal law.” WSWA wants Congress to enact regulations similar to that of alcohol. 

In 2022, three more states legalized recreational weed, Rhode Island, Maryland and Missouri. There appears to be a growing trend of legalization sweeping the nation, as new measures appear on state election ballots each year. The number of states with legal marijuana will likely increase with every election.

“More than 50 percent of the U.S. population lives in a legal adult-use cannabis state,” read WSWA’s statement

The statement continues, “The fact is cannabis legalization at the state level is here to stay, evidenced by nearly a decade of newly legalized state markets and no meaningful effort to undo them. Rather, states that have legalized are expanding their markets and even discussing ways to begin interstate commerce of the product. Yet they receive no support from the federal government in determining how to ensure that products are not hazardous or that the market is fair and competitive especially as the market becomes increasingly national in scope.”

A major problem under the current system means states where cannabis is legal face issues with banking or tax deductions because it is not federally legal. 

The WSWA wants the federal government to legalize and regulate cannabis in a similar manner to alcohol, which would give distributors an avenue to make a lot of money. The US currently has a three-tier system for alcohol which makes distributors legally necessary middlemen between the producers and the retailers. Therefore, WSWA’s push for legalization is not a selfless act.  

The three-tier system is not beloved by many in the alcohol industry. Craft spirits and other alcohol producers have found it very limiting when attempting to expand their businesses in the past. Not everyone necessarily finds the system to be “fair and competitive” as WSWA has suggested and this would likely remain an issue with the inclusion of cannabis companies vying for national distribution. 

Alcohol distributors have already entered the CBD market but this has not come without its difficulties. CBD is not fully recognized or regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The legalization of cannabis remains a divisive issue and it’s difficult to say if Congress would be willing to come to a compromise. If legal marijuana does become a reality federally, distributors are certainly going to want a piece of the action. This could mean lobbying for a three-tier system for cannabis as well. 

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Jessica Gleman is the managing editor of Rum Raiders. She received her Ph.D. at the University College of Dublin in Ireland, where she studied the archaeology of ancient alcohol. Jessica has a passion for the alcohol industry, including agriculture, distillation and mixology. When Jessica is not writing about rum, she is also a travel and food enthusiast who loves going around the world and experiencing various cuisines and cultures. She is enthusiastic about sharing her knowledge and expertise and learning even more about this amazing spirit.