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On Giving Tuesday--or any day this year--consider donating to Alcohol Justice. Be part of an organization dedicated to empowering communities and standing up to Big Alcohol.

In the past year, we have been part of several landmark victories against big-money alcohol interests, inlcuding:

Many challenges loom in the coming year. We are ready to face them. Please join us in the fight.

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Scotland Set to Go Forward with Minimum Unit Pricing

A Scottish gent drinks relatively low price alcoholOn November 15, 2017, the UK Supreme Court cleared the way for Scotland to institute a decisive strategy to control death and injury from alcohol—minimum unit pricing (MUP). By setting a floor for retail price of alcohol, MUP places high-ABV, low-price beverages in a higher price tier, creating a financial barrier to binge drinking. Although the policy had been passed in 2012, the Scotch Whiskey Association (an industry group backed by global alcohol giant Diageo) sued in both UK and European Union courts to keep it from going into effect. After the 2017 decision, the Association announced they would no longer be challenging it, marking a victory of public health advocates in Scotland and a promising precedent for legislators worldwide.


“This has been a long road—no doubt the policy will continue to have its critics—but it is a bold and necessary move to improve public health,” Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC.


Unlike strict price controls or excise taxes, Scotland’s minimum unit pricing sets only the shelf price, meaning the retailer keeps all profits above the prices set by manufacturers. While this does not qualify as a charge-for-harm strategy since no funds are recouped by the state, it was a key to the Supreme Court’s decision. The judges praised the policy’s ability to target “the groups most affected in a way that an increase in excise or VAT does not.”


Scotland is not the first country to implement MUP. Canada empowered its provincial governments to set a floor price for alcohol, a policy that seems to effective when used. A recent study demonstrated that a 10% increase in minimum price in Saskatchewan was associated with an 8% decrease in consumption and 9% decrease in alcohol-related hospitalizations. (By comparison, the province of Alberta opted not to institute MUP, and saw no change in consumption or hospitalization.)


Scottish Health Secretary Shona Robison expects similar reductions. Speaking to the Guardian, she cited 1,265 alcohol-related deaths in 2016, a rise of 10% from the previous year. “These numbers are completely unacceptable. Behind every one of these statistics is a person, a family, and a community.” With MUP in place, Robison’s department predicts 392 fewer deaths and 8,254 hospital admissions tied to alcohol-related causes.


Moreover, young adults are especially sensitive to price, liable to binge drink, and susceptible to harm from injury, accident, and suicide. By setting a price threshold that affects the products specifically targeted at youth, MUP performs double duty as both harm reduction and prevention.


“This was a hard fought victory against an industry not afraid to throw its weight and money around,” said Bruce Lee Livingston, CEO/Executive Director of Alcohol Justice. “Other countries need to take this lesson—price is prevention and Big Alcohol can be beaten.”


The BBC report notes that David Cameron, at that time the Prime Minister of the UK, pushed for MUP in 2012. That effort wilted in the face pushback from Big Alcohol, but after Scotland’s success, the other constituent countries of the UK are expected to approach similar legislation individually.


MUP goes into effect in Scotland on May 1, 2018. Its effectiveness will be monitored and the policy subject to a renewal vote after 6 years.


READ MORE about the legal fight for minimum unit pricing.


READ MORE about the fight for common-sense regulations in alcohol sales.

CAPA 2nd Annual Summit a Success

Thank you to CAPA 2nd annual summit participantsThanks to all our members!

Over 100 alcohol prevention allies from across the state gathered in Los Angeles on September 18th for the 2nd Annual CAPA Summit to celebrate their victory over the 4 am Bar Bill and plan for the coming year. We were joined by keynote speaker, Jacob Appelsmith, Director of Alcoholic Beverage Control, and LA City Council Member Paul Koretz. Alcohol Prevention Heroes honored included Assembly Member Raul Bocanegra (D-39). ABC PIO John Carr, Lynne Goodwin of Friday Night Live Partnership and Jaime Rich of Center for Human Development.

Thanks to all who made the day one of spirit and energy -- we look making CAPA even stronger in the year to come.

Big Alcohol Lunges to Take Over Cannabis

a pint of pot, anyone?Public health advocates face a complicated question: how can marijuana’s growing acceptance as a recreational and medical product be reconciled with the potential for a powerful pot industry to engage in the kinds of reckless, corrupt, and manipulative practices Big Alcohol has mastered? Constellation Brands, the owner of Corona beer and Svedka vodka among other brands, offers an easy answer: with their purchase of a 10% stake in Canopy Growth, they declare Big Alcohol’s intention to be the marijuana industry.

With Monday’s (10/30/17) $191 billion dollar investment in the Canadian marijuana producer Canopy, Constellation has declared its intention to get out in front of the legalization of recreational marijuana in Canada and the U.S. “Our company’s success is the result of our focus on identifying early-stage consumer trends, and this is another step in that direction,” Constellation CEO Rob Sands told Bloomberg Businessweek.

What that means seems still up for debate, even among the business partners themselves. Bruce Linton, the CEO of Canopy—which makes medicinal marijuana products for the Canadian market—reassured Bloomberg that “[t]here’s no need to include alcohol, nor is there an intent to include alcohol” in their products. Yet Constellation told Beer Business Daily (subscription required), “There are going to be alcoholic beverages that also contain cannabis.”

This presents multiple problems both for public health advocates and independent marijuana producers. The resources of Big Alcohol, compared to those of marijuana companies, are vast, including access to lobbyists and the ability to distort public health research. While Canopy currently works in a regulated medical marijuana space, once full legalization passes, Big Alcohol’s expertise in tearing down safety regulations, promoting junk science, and marketing to youth will introduce a raft of health problems that negate the benefits of prescription weed.

“The alcohol companies are somewhat terrified of this industry,” a rival marijuana executive told Bloomberg. “They see cannabis as a substitute for alcohol.” Data on chronic marijuana use are scant, so it remains unclear whether long-term marijuana use is better for the public health, but this buyout makes that issue moot: if Big Alcohol holds the marijuana industry’s reins, cannabis has zero chance of mitigating alcohol-related harms.

This buyout could signal the start of a race to the bottom among marijuana companies. MolsonCoors and Diageo both told Bloomberg in a separate article they are anticipating entering the marijuana industry, and their entry will instantly create Big Marijuana and gut independent growers that don’t enjoy such partnerships.

“Big Alcohol is what happens when you fail at regulating a recreational drug company,” said Michael Scippa, Public Relations Director of Alcohol Justice. “We can’t allow Big Marijuana to become something similar—and we really can’t let them be the exact same companies.”

READ MORE about how California’s marijuana regulators must not make the same mistakes we made with alcohol.