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Alcohol Industry Group on Intoxicating Hemp Ban: 'Prohibition Never Works'

The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America isn't mincing words.

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In response to last week's announcement of a bipartisan amendment to the Farm Bill seeking to ban intoxicating hemp products from the market, WSWA has a message for Congress - prohibition isn't the answer.

"Now is the time for federal regulation โ€“ not prohibition," said WSWA President & CEO Francis Creighton. "Lawmakers need not look too far back in history to learn from the beverage alcohol marketplace and know, without a doubt, that prohibition isn't the answer. Congress should be focused on protecting public safety and empowering states to regulate the sale of these products โ€“ just as federal regulations for alcohol have done for 90-plus years."

The amendment attempts to ban intoxicating hemp products by eliminating them from the definition of legal hemp. If enacted, this would attempt to remove these products from shelves across the country.

"I have doubts about the ability to eliminate all of these products any more than they've eliminated the cannabis marketplace," said WSWA Executive Vice President of Government Affairs Dawson Hobbs. "There's several ways to skin the cat, so to speak, and in our view the cleanest is to essentially try to replicate what we have in the alcohol space."

WSWA supports the regulation of THC whether it comes from hemp or cannabis and is the first alcohol industry trade association to publicly support the legalization of adult-use cannabis, and to brief Members of Congress on comprehensive federal regulations for those products based upon the success and efficacy of the U.S. alcohol regulatory model. 

WSWA's proposed framework is built on four principles drawing on long-established federal laws governing the alcohol industry. With an emphasis on public safety and accountability, this system would provide a transparent and effective framework for adult-use cannabis production, testing, distribution, and tax collecting. Last spring, the association updated its Principles for Comprehensive Federal Legalization and Oversight of the Adult-use Cannabis Supply Chain, alongside the announced commitment to actively advocate on the issue.

WSWA's Principles for Comprehensive Federal Legalization and Oversight of the Adult-use Cannabis Supply Chain are rooted in four pillars:

  1. The federal permitting of cannabis producers, importers, testing facilities and distributors.
  2. The federal approval and regulation of "cannabis products and product labels."
  3. The efficient and effective collection of federal excise tax.
  4. Effective federal measures to ensure public safety.

"We've just completed the first lap of a long-distance race," said Hobbs. "There are a lot of mileposts along the way where this can be changed. One of the benefits of this amendment is that it brought the conversation to the forefront."

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