Beer v. Pot, Public Choice Edition

Josh Wright —  26 September 2010

The political economy of alcohol regulation has always been fascinating.  But things took an interesting turn of late (HT: Marginal Revolution) when a beer industry trade group took a stand against a proposition that would legalize marijuana in California:

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 story points out that Sierra Nevada and Stone Brewing Company (amongst others one presumes) do not support the actions of the California Beverage & Beer Distributors.   The politics are fascinating, with, for example, the Teamsters and teachers supporting legalization.  The linked story also recently updated with the following (in my view, pretty weak) defensive statement from the CBBD:

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 When prohibition was repealed, there was already a regulatory system in place to deal with the distribution or sale of alcohol.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.

So its the CBBD’s general interest in poorly worded initiatives?  Its not the fact that beer and marijuana are likely economic substitutes at the relevant margin that has their attention?  Really?

4 responses to Beer v. Pot, Public Choice Edition


    My son, Paul Armentano, examines several aspects of the “competition” between alcohol and marijuana in his book, “Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? (Chelsea Green, 2009).

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