The Beer Distributors PAC's contribution was the third largest the anti-legalization group has received, the Intercept reported. Pictured: A liquor store in Atlantic City, N.J. (Spencer Platt, Getty Images file)

Why beer distributors, alcohol trade groups are fighting legal marijuana with lots of cash

In Arizona, a synthetic cannabis drugmaker has dropped $500,000 to fight legal marijuana.

In Massachusetts, a group of beer distributors tossed in $25,000 to anti-legalization efforts, the Intercept reported this week.

The investigative news website reports that the Beer Distributors PAC, consisting of 16 beer distributors in Massachusetts, contributed $25,000 to the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, the organization fighting the passage of adult-use marijuana legalization measure Question 4 on this November’s ballot.

The Beer Distributors PAC’s contribution was the third largest the anti-legalization group has received, the Intercept reported.

The PAC did not respond to the Intercept’s request for comment, but such a move from an alcohol industry member is not out of the ordinary, the site reports:

Securities and Exchange Commission filings reveal that heavyweight alcohol companies have disclosed to investors that pot could pose a challenge to their bottom line.

The Boston Beer Company, the parent company of Sam Adams, told investors in its 10-K filing that laws that allow the “sale and distribution of marijuana” could “adversely impact the demand” for beer.

The Brown-Forman Company, makers of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and Finlandia Vodka, similarly warned in its 10-K filing that “consumer preferences and purchases may shift due to a host of factors, many of which are difficult to predict, including … the potential legalization of marijuana use on a more widespread basis within the United States, and changes in travel, leisure, dining, gifting, entertaining, and beverage consumption trends.”

U.S. News & World Report earlier this year reported that the alcohol industry’s views toward legalization are mixed:

An alcohol industry group is funding a campaign against Arizona legalizing and regulating recreational marijuana sales. But across Lake Mead, alcohol companies in Nevada are among the largest financial supporters of an effort to legalize pot there.

The reason for the divergence and whether the donations are motivated by greed, high-minded altruism or good business sense depends on whom you ask.

The difference between the Arizona and Nevada initiatives may offer an explanation. In Nevada, the initiative would require that licensed distributors act as middlemen between cultivators and retailers, with licenses going for the first 18 months to alcohol distributors. There’s no such requirement in the Arizona initiative likely to qualify for the ballot.

Read the Intercept’s full article.