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Press Release: Maryland Governor Backs Big Alcohol

O'Malley Allows Bill to Become Law Without Actually Signing It - Alcopops to be Taxed as Beer

SAN RAFAEL, Calif., May 23 -- Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley announced Wednesday that he would allow SB 745, a bill that will keep alcopops cheap and readily available to minors throughout his state, to become law. In choosing not to veto the bill, O'Malley sided with the influential alcohol industry over the strong objections of youth advocates, public safety officials, and his own Attorney General, Douglas Gansler.

"We are deeply disappointed that Governor O'Malley did not stand up to Big Alcohol and put the health and safety of Maryland's youth before corporate profits," said Bruce Livingston, executive director of Marin Institute. "While California, Utah, and Maine have recognized the danger to youth and taken action to limit youth access to alcopops, O'Malley caved to the wishes of the industry to keep the dangerous drinks relatively inexpensive and widely available."

SB 745 defines alcopops as beer in Maryland allowing them to be taxed cheaply at 9 cents a gallon, instead of the $1.50 per gallon tax applied to distilled spirits. SB 745 also allows alcopops to continue to be sold like beer, in the thousands of convenience stores, gas stations and mini-marts where youth congregate.

Attorney General Douglas Gansler had stated that alcopops should be taxed and distributed as distilled spirits in an effort to make the drinks less accessible to Maryland's youth. In a transparent attempt to avoid responsibility for his actions O'Malley claimed the legislature had not done a thorough job on the bill and a broader consensus was still needed to regulate the beverages.

"This unfortunate and cowardly move by Governor O'Malley will have a lasting impact on the state of Maryland," Livingston added. "The consensus already exists that underage drinkers are attracted to and drink alcopops. And research shows they are four times more likely to develop alcohol problems if they start drinking before age 15. SB 745 also denies Maryland millions of dollars in tax revenues each year, monies that could be used for treatment and prevention programs to mitigate the costs of underage alcohol use."

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