WSWA calls on Congress to legalize cannabis with alcohol-like regulations


 Dive Brief:

  • Alcohol trade group Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) announced its commitment to promoting federal legalization of cannabis. In a letter to Congress last week, the group said lawmakers should model legislation after alcohol laws and individual states should be able to control the laws surrounding cannabis within their borders.
  • WSWA CEO and President Francis Creighton said in a statement the success of the U.S. regulatory system for alcoholic beverages "offers a proven model for cannabis regulation, one that will promote public health and safety as well as a fair and competitive marketplace."
  • The national cannabis industry is currently in limbo because companies can only sell and make their products in states that have laws allowing cannabis to be sold and distributed. The push of a powerful lobbying group like WSWA could encourage lawmakers to act on federal legalization.

 Dive Insight:

By utilizing its influence as a leading trade group for the alcoholic beverage industry, WSWA's push could signal a new era for cannabis legalization efforts after the FDA failed to regulate the use of CBD in food and beverage products earlier this year.

In a statement, Creighton of WSWA said state governments have found success in regulating alcohol within their borders and should be allowed to set the parameters of how they want cannabis to be regulated, which could include not legalizing it.

"Federal regulation of cannabis should focus on issues of public health and safety and interstate commerce, such as standard potency measurements, labeling and marketing guidelines, the licensing of producers, testing facilities and distributors, collecting excise taxes, and properly funding impaired driving prevention and enforcement," Creighton said.

The trade group announced four principles for lawmakers to focus on to move toward federal cannabis legalization. These include permitting of producers and distributors, regulation of cannabis products and labels, collection of an excise tax on cannabis products and effective public safety measures.

In the letter, WSWA emphasized that cannabis legalization should be done in a comprehensive way rather than incrementally, which it said will not work to ensure product safety.

In January, after the government agency decided not to move forward with legalizing cannabis as an ingredient, FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement they would work with Congress on a new regulatory pathway that would include clear labeling, prevention of contaminants, CBD content limits and a minimum purchase age.

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