This op-ed originally appeared in Marijuana Moment on April 18, 2023.
In the United States, we have an amazing variety of choices in our beverage alcohol marketplace—and every choice a consumer makes can be made with confidence knowing that the beverage they are about to consume is safe, free of illicit or dangerous ingredients and the proof is exact.
More than 50 percent of the U.S. population lives in a legal adult-use cannabis state, yet these same regulations and testing standards that keep American beverage alcohol consumers safe don’t exist for cannabis users. The federal government continues to categorize cannabis as a Schedule I drug—the same as heroin—giving rise to conflict between state and federal law.
The fact is adult-use cannabis legalization at the state level is here to stay, and American consumers lack the regulatory safeguards they deserve.
Ultimately, the conflict between federal and state law leaves consumers facing serious health and safety risks without a robust federal regulatory structure. The federal government should: license producers, testing facilities and distributors; ensure product integrity; establish appropriate taxes and trade practice requirements and protect public safety. States should be able to tailor additional requirements that suit local needs.
The conflict also creates unstable marketplaces without clarity of law surrounding interstate sales as well as significant problems for businesses operating in legal states, law enforcement, regulators and citizens in neighboring states that have chosen not to legalize.
After nearly a century of distributing socially sensitive products, America’s family-owned wine and spirits wholesalers understand that product diversity, consumer confidence, marketplace competition and the efficient and effective collection of taxes has been achieved because of the complementary state and federal regulatory structures the industry enjoys. This balance creates clarity of law, gives teeth to enforcement actions, and ensures impactful consequences to bad actors.
Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA)’s newly revised Principles for Comprehensive Federal Legalization and Oversight of the Adult-Use Cannabis Supply Chain outlines four clear pillars for the safe and responsible federal regulation of cannabis use rooted in nearly a century of lessons learned from the world’s safest, most product diverse, most competitive, and most vibrant beverage alcohol marketplace.
WSWA’s Pillars for Safe & Responsible Federal Cannabis Regulation:
1. The federal permitting of cannabis producers, importers, testing facilities and distributors.
2. The federal approval and regulation of cannabis products;
3. The efficient and effective collection of federal excise tax; and
4. Effective measures to ensure public safety.
WSWA also believes that legalization should be done comprehensively, not incrementally. Regulating cannabis in a piecemeal manner—such as addressing issues like banking or tax deductions—will amount to de facto federal legalization without adequately protecting consumers or communities. Without addressing these pillars comprehensively, Americans are endangered by missing critical safety standards and the continued operation of unregulated markets, impacting everything from funding for impaired driving research and enforcement training, to rules ensuring fair marketplace competition and transparency for consumers.
The bottom line is that public health and public safety demand that the federal government regulate the cannabis market. Congress should look at the U.S. alcohol market and put the lessons learned from the world’s safest and most vibrant marketplace of socially sensitive products to serve users and non-users alike.