An Alcohol Industry Trade Association Announces Support for Federal Legalization and Regulation of Adult-Use Cannabis

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In late March, the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America submitted a letter to congressional leadership expressing its support for cannabis legalization that uses regulatory frameworks similar to those of the alcohol industry.

On March 22, 2023, the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) announced their support of federal legalization and regulation of adult-use cannabis in a three-page letter addressed to members of Congress, including Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Leader Charles Schumer, and Leader Mitch McConnell (1). The WSWA is the industry trade group representing the distribution tier of the wine and spirits wholesalers in the United States (2).

Signed by WSWA President and CEO Francis Creighton, the letter explained how the regulation of alcohol could serve as a framework for cannabis regulation and how the current state-by-state approach to cannabis reform is unsustainable. Additionally, it called for the creation of a federal regulatory structure that licenses producers, testing facilities, and distributors in order to ensure product integrity, establish appropriate tax and trade practicerequirements, and protect public safety (1).

The letter highlighted the cooperation at the state and federal level after the end of Prohibition in the US. “During and immediately after Prohibition, a significant black market existed for alcohol products. It was cooperation between state and federal regulators that effectively ended that black market and created a legal alcohol marketplace that has evolved into the global standard for consumer safety, marketplace competition, and product diversification—all of which provide benefits to the public,” the letter said (1).


“States should maintain the flexibility to legalize—or not legalize—cannabis within their borders,” the letter continued. “They should also be able to regulate the production, distribution, and sale of the product in the manner that best suits each state—just as they do for alcohol. These regulations reflect local concerns but work under the same overarching federal regulatory framework for product manufacturing, testing and distribution, thereby ensuring a common foundation while each state remains the primary regulator of retail sales.”

The WSWA ended the letter with a list of the four pillars it decided should guide the federal regulation of cannabis (1):

1. The federal permitting of cannabis producers, importers, testing facilities, and distributors
2. Federal approval and regulation of cannabis products
3. Efficient federal tax collection
4. Effective federal guidelines and other measures to protect public health and safety

In 2021 WSWA drafted a policy brief laying out regulatory priorities that lawmakers should use when replacing cannabis prohibition with a legalization framework (3).