For years, France’s wine industry backed the efforts of temperance advocates to demonize absinthe, the emerald-green spirit remembered today primarily as the tipple of choice for fin-de-siècle bohemians in Paris. The drink remained widely criminalized for decades as a result, a boon to vineyards everywhere.
The same tactic may now be at work in California, where voters are poised to decide on a ballot proposition to legalize another green substance—marijuana—but where an alcohol industry lobby group is funding a campaign to keep the drug verboten. This month, the California Beer & Beverage Distributors donated $10,000 to Public Safety First, a committee opposed to Proposition 19, which, were it to pass in November, would permit the regulation of marijuana.
Though it’s not commenting on the donation, the beer distributors’ group has good reason to worry that pot would cut into beer’s market share. Observers expect other beverage groups will soon contribute to the anti-Proposition 19 campaign. It’s a fight that makes for odd bedfellows: another big backer of the anti-pot Public Safety First lobby is California law enforcement. The police worry about impaired drivers—though not enough, it seems, to be wary of joining forces with the alcohol industry.