Of the countless revelations surfacing from WikiLeaks’ 2016 election emails, few expose the corruption of government like the alcohol industry’s attempts to criminalize marijuana use.
At the center of the controversy is Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA), a trade association caught in the WikiLeaks data dump trying to scare politicians into prosecuting pot use.
According to the leaked email, Capitol Hill insiders were receiving paid ads from WSWA like this one:
** A message from Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America: While neutral on the issue of legalization, WSWA believes states that legalize marijuana need to ensure appropriate and effective regulations are enacted to protect the public from the dangers associated with the abuse and misuse of marijuana.
23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medicinal marijuana while Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and D.C. have legalized possession and recreational use. In the years since the state legalized medicinal use, Colorado law enforcement officials have documented a significant increase in traffic fatalities in which drivers tested positive for marijuana.
Congress should fully fund Section 4008 of the FAST Act (PL 114-94) in the FY 2017 Appropriations process to document the prevalence of marijuana impaired driving, outline impairment standards and determine driving impairment detection methods.
As you can see, the sponsored message from WSWA attempts to spread fearful propaganda to D.C. insiders in the hopes of criminalizing marijuana use.
Even worse, however, is the trade association’s use of deceptive/distorted “statistics” to suggest that Colorado’s legalization of pot has led to a substantial increase in car crash fatalities.
The “evidence” comes from an AAA safety foundation report which concluded that the number of drivers killed in car crashes while under the influence of marijuana had doubled.
Although statistically true, WSWA fails to consider important contextual nuances, such as the fact that, despite marijuana-related car crash fatalities doubling from 38 in 2013 to 75 in 2014, such deaths only accounted for 1.8% of total deaths.
Furthermore, most of the 75 drivers killed in 2014 had other drugs in their system, as Staci Hoff of WTSC puts it:
“Most of these drivers, these 75 drivers, also had alcohol or other drugs” in their systems. Over a five-year period, just 1.8 percent of fatal crashes involved drivers who tested positive only for cannabis.
Most of these drivers, these 75 drivers, also had alcohol or other drugs” in their systems. Over a five-year period, just 1.8 percent of fatal crashes involved drivers who tested positive only for cannabis.
So, in our study, we looked at all five years of date, 2010 to 2014, and there were never 3,000 drivers involved in these fatal crashes during that time period. Only 56 of them had THC and only THC, nothing else.
Even more, the vast majority of car crash fatalities involve the use of alcohol, begging the question: why is WSWA so concerned about marijuana when its own prized substance—alcohol—is a much more lethal issue?
As Morgan Fox, a manager at Marijuana Policy Project pointed out:
…given that driving under the influence of marijuana is already illegal and that the existing research shows marijuana’s effect on driving ability is significantly less than alcohol, it is difficult to see a legitimate reason for the alcohol industry to be taking up this issue. They would do better to fund research on how to decrease drunk driving.
The WikiLeaks revelations confirmed a suspicion that’s circulated for decades. Just like tobacco companies collude with government for special benefits, alcohol industries spread fear among D.C. insiders to demonize marijuana.