Funny Business with Jane Wells

Here's The Dope on Pot Vs. Wine

Marijuana joint

Governor Schwarzenegger hopes to close California's $20 billion budget gap with cuts, new revenues, and more money from Washington, DC.

Some think he must be high. The state's Legislative Analyst's Office says that while it's reasonable to expect some relief from the Obama Administration, "we believe that the likelihood of Washington agreeing to all of the Governor's requests is almost non-existent."

Speaking of getting high...

With California facing few palatable options—deeper cuts, higher taxes—some at the state level are considering legalizing marijuana and taxing it. They must be reading my campaign fodder. Such a development would be against federal law, but the public safety committee in the State Assembly has approved a bill to do just that. The aim is to regulate pot like alcohol.

You should expect proponents of the new bill to compare the pot industry to California's prestigious and lucrative wine industry, says blogger Tom Wark. Wark is a PR guy in the wine biz who blogs about things like campaign money coming from beer wholesalers, or news that Sarah Palin has just been booked to speak at the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association annual meeting this year (I wanna go to that meeting).

But here's the blogpost from Wark which really caught my eye, called "Wine, Dope and Unmentionable Truths."

Wark writes that, "In some circles, the notion of selling and taxing Marijuana is being promoted by pointing to the success of California's wine industry in creating jobs, providing an economic engine for the state in general, and for creating tax revenue for the state."

Then he compares and contrasts wine and dope and how they're marketed.

"The only acceptable reason to smoke dope is to get high," he writes. "Wine, however, while providing the same benefit as dope, has other acceptable reasons--or at least excuses--for drinking it." Those reasons include good taste, the ability for wine to make food taste better, and wine "provides a traditionally celebratory edge to an occasion."

Yet Wark says we're fooling ourselves in treating them as two completely different commodities. "Let's face it, today the primary reason people obsess over, drink, collect, serve and sell wine is because the alcohol in the wine makes us feel good, or at least different. And this is the fact behind wine's success that almost always goes unspoken. So, in this respect, wine and dope are really not much different."

Wine and dope are similar. Too much wine can damage your liver. Too much pot can damage your lungs. Too much of either can damage your brain. On the other hand, wine really DOES taste good, and it DOES make food taste better. Plus, it has proven health benefits. Dope merely eases the side effects of people who are sick, and it apparently makes Doritos taste better, or at least makes you want to eat more of them. And while it can make some people feel better, it also stinks up the place.

However, Wark ignores one important difference. Wine is legal, marijuana is not. That creates a huge perceptual difference in the minds of many people. Wine is good, dope is bad. Otherwise, why would marijuana be illegal?

Maybe it just needs better marketing? Wark writes, "How interesting it is that in the 20 years I've been helping to promote and market wine, I've never once used the fact that drinking wine will make you feel different as a benefit of a product that I'm helping to sell and promote...because most people don't like to be reminded that the primary reason the drink wine is the same primary reason people smoke dope: to alter their perception of reality."

Agreed. I've never recommended a bottle of wine because "this will get you totally wasted, woo-hoo!" To make his point, Wark says it would be very unlikely that any wine would ever be described this way: "The 2009 Wark Estate Pinot Noir not only exhibits nuanced aromas of smoke, cherry, bacon and cinnamon, it will also provide you with a means to alter your view of reality. With its 14% alcohol you can count on experiencing a soft and cushioned inebriation after no more than two glasses if you enjoy them fairly close to one another..."

So, if marijuana is legalized how would it be marketed? Here's the dope: probably like wine. I believe that if the industry is legalized, once it emerges from the shadows and brings in big marketing guns, companies selling pot would avoid any attempts to promote a product that would "blow your mind". Only a dope would use the word "dope" in ads. It's more likely they'd pitch a particular blend's healing or restorative powers, like herbal tea, another leafy product.

In other words, Maui Wowie might become "Island Paradise Calming Blend".

As for me, I'll stick with a good Cabernet Sauvignon.

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