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Big Alcohol Fueling Opposition to California Marijuana Initiative

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According to a recently filed campaign finance report, the campaign to defeat a marijuana legalization initiative in California is receiving substantial funding from the alcohol industry. Now marijuana advocates are fighting back, calling on the opposition campaign to explain why it is working with Big Alcohol to keep marijuana illegal.

On September 7th, the California Beer and Beverage Distributors contributed $10,000 to the No on Prop. 19 campaign, which calls itself "Public Safety First." Proposition 19 would establish a legally regulated marijuana market in which marijuana is controlled and taxed in a fashion similar to alcohol.

It's clear why the alcohol industry is in this fight -- to protect its turf and keep Californians drinking. This is the same California Beer and Beverage Distributors gave $100,000 to oppose Proposition 5, the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act (NORA), which would have reduced marijuana possession from a misdemeanor to an infraction. With marijuana being the second most popular recreational substance (despite its prohibition), the booze industry must recognize the threat legal marijuana poses to its bottom line. Thus, it has a vast financial interest in keeping marijuana illegal and steering Californians away from using it.

But why does the No on Prop. 19 campaign share Big Alcohol's goal of an alcohol-only society? It seems odd that a group that purports to be committed to enhancing public safety wants to ensure Californians can only drink and cannot use marijuana as a safer recreational alternative.

After all, every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it is far safer than alcohol to the user and society. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol use alone contributes to more than 35,000 deaths each year -- including several hundred from overdoses -- whereas marijuana use does not contribute to any deaths and has never resulted in a fatal overdose in history. Also, whereas alcohol is a major contributing factor in domestic violence, sexual assaults, fights, and other violent crimes, marijuana has never been found to contribute to such problems.

2010-09-16-BigAlc.jpgIn light of "Public Safety First's" decision to team up with the alcohol industry to ensure the booze keeps flowing and the pot does not, Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), the organization I run, called on No on Prop. 19 Campaign Manager Tim Rosales to explain the campaign's desire to ensure alcohol is the only legal intoxicant available for adults.

Mr. Rosales has yet to respond to the upwards of 1,000 e-mails he has received from Prop. 19 supporters throughout California and across the nation. So I'll ask him again here:

Mr. Rosales, if you and your campaign are so concerned about public safety, why do you want to continue driving Californians to drink, and why on earth wouldn't you want adults to be able to make the rational choice to use a far less harmful substance?

Needless to say, I won't be holding my breath as I await his response... I'll just be at the bar drinking my worries away until the day I can legally make the safer choice to use marijuana instead.