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Big Alcohol’s Impact on Federal Cannabis Legislation: What to Know?

The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) recently sent a letter to congressional leadership urging lawmakers to support the legalization of marijuana at the federal level. In the letter, WSWA pointed to a policy brief it first drafted in 2021 that lays out regulatory priorities for cannabis reform and suggested that alcohol’s three-tier system could be used as a model for cannabis regulation.

The purpose of this policy brief is to provide recommendations for federal cannabis reform that would replace prohibition with an effective and equitable framework. The document argues that there should be collaboration among stakeholders from inside and outside the industry, regulation must be informed by science, public health and safety considerations should come first, diversity should be supported, and taxes should be used to generate revenue.

The WSWA believes that the current system for the regulation of alcohol “serves as a strong model” for cannabis and that a “piecemeal” approach to marijuana reform is untenable, so lawmakers should “comprehensively” address the issue. To this end, it has proposed the PREPARE Act, which is meant to create a national regulatory framework for cannabis that would be ready as soon as lawmakers are ready to legalize it.

Big Alcohol's Impact on Federal Cannabis Legislation: What to Know?

The top executives at WSWA are confident that their policy brief can guide federal cannabis reform and have rallied industry stakeholders to support its new position on marijuana legalization. However, it remains to be seen how this push will influence the debate on federal cannabis reform.

The PREPARE Act is a proposed policy bill drafted by the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) to create a national regulatory framework for cannabis legalization. This legislation aims to have experts make a plan that can be implemented as soon as lawmakers are ready to legalize at the federal level.

If passed, the Act would create an independent board within the Department of Commerce with members appointed by Congress and the President. This board would advise on regulations related to cannabis production, distribution, sales, and taxes. It would also develop standards related to lab testing, health and safety requirements, product labeling and packaging, advertising restrictions, and guidelines around taxation and enforcement.

While the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) has proposed the PREPARE Act as a model for federal cannabis reform, there are some potential flaws in this legislation. First, while it may provide structure and guidance to lawmakers, it could be challenging to implement nationally due to varying state regulations.

Second, despite its reliance on the three-tier system that is used by the alcohol industry, this approach may not be appropriate for cannabis, given the differences between these substances. In addition, the two industries exist in vastly different regulatory environments, so what works well for one might not necessarily work well for the other.

Lastly, relying too heavily on an existing system could limit innovation within the cannabis industry, which could have long-term effects on the industry’s growth and development. In addition, this legislation may not consider other important factors, such as social equity considerations or public health concerns.

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Overall, while the PREPARE Act is a good starting point for federal cannabis reform, lawmakers need to consider other potential models that may better serve the industry’s and its stakeholders’ needs. It is also critical to ensure that any proposed framework considers all relevant perspectives so that it can be effectively implemented at the federal level.

The PREPARE Act proposed by the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) relies heavily on the three-tier system used in the alcohol industry, which could cause potential problems.

This model may not be appropriate for cannabis, given the differences between these substances and their respective regulatory environments. The two industries exist in vastly different landscapes, so what works well for one might not necessarily work well for the other.

Ben Larson’s (CEO of Vertosa, a cannabis beverage company) take on the potential for alcohol distributors to influence the federal cannabis legalization process is sobering. He believes Big Alcohol will likely successfully secure their piece of the industry, with a three-tiered system allowing them to occupy the top tier and liquor retailers to own the bottom.

While this may mean greater access to cannabis products, it also means that equity measures won’t be included in any legislation passed by Congress.


Big Alcohol’s PREPARE Act, proposed by WSWA has been met with mixed responses from both sides of the debate due to its potential flaws and limitations. It is important to remember that cannabis legalization is not a simple process.

People should be aware of the potential implications of relying too heavily on an existing alcohol-centric system. To ensure the industry understands all aspects of this issue, stakeholders must continue discussing how best to approach federal cannabis reform.

In addition, relying too heavily on an existing system could limit innovation within the cannabis industry, which could have long-term effects on its growth and development. Finally, this legislation must also consider important factors such as social equity considerations or public health concerns.

No matter what happens in the end, it will be essential for everyone involved to remain informed and engaged in the discussion. This is a critical moment for the future of cannabis in America, so everyone must have their say!


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