The Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) is throwing its support behind the legalization of recreational marijuana, a groundbreaking move that could hasten cooperation between cannabis and alcohol businesses, after years of rivalry.
The Washington, D.C.-based trade group announced Thursday that its official policy position was “in favor of a state’s right to establish a legal, well-regulated, adult-use cannabis marketplace.”
“WSWA believes that, similar to alcohol, the federal government should give states the power to legalize cannabis, but should ensure they meet an appropriate regulatory threshold,” the statement said, adding that the federal government should respect the right of states to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana.
The association, with roughly 370 members, distributes more than 80% of the nation’s wholesale wine and liquor.
The group noted that it was “the first and only beverage alcohol association” to endorse the legalization of adult-use cannabis.
“What I think ending prohibition for cannabis would do – if you enact appropriate regulations at the state level – would allow those states that choose to legalize to have a safe marketplace that serves the consumer, that allows business to operate openly, and allows businesses to operate in a safe manner so that consumers know what they are getting,” said Dawson Hobbs, the WSWA’s acting executive vice president of external affairs.
The announcement moves the association away from its prior “neutral” position on marijuana legalization.
“This is a larger acknowledgment that cannabis is truly a safe recreational product, and could lead to new products that consumers want,” said Jon Cooper, according to Brewbound. Cooper is CEO of Ebbu, a cannabis research firm working with Ceria Beverages to create a cannabis-infused beer.
WSWA’s Hobbs said that “cannabis is here to stay,” and that continued legalization efforts are inevitable.
That is why, Hobbs continued, the WSWA is arguing for a state-based regulatory framework similar to the one that exists in the alcohol industry, which it believes would ensure “safe consumption.”