Pot versus beer: Are CO's two iconic industries destined to clash over weed legalization?

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Has the war between intoxicants formally begun? The California Beer and Beverage Distributors (CBBD), a trade association, recently made headlines for donating $10,000 to oppose Proposition 19, the California marijuana-legalization measure to be voted on in November.

The message seems clear, says Mason Tvert, executive director of the Denver-based SAFER, an organization that argues marijuana is less harmful than alcohol: "These are the world's two most popular recreational intoxicants, and they are economic substitutes. I think it's safe to say if marijuana becomes legal altogether, there will be many occasions where people will choose to use marijuana and not choose to drink."

But the battle lines between Big Beer and Big Pot might not be so clean cut. Several CBBD members -- Sierra Nevada, Stone Brewing Co. and Colorado's own New Belgium Brewing Co. -- have publicly distanced themselves from the controversial donation. "We were taken completely aback when they took that stance on Proposition 19, and it was not in alignment with our stance" says New Belgium public-relations director Bryan Simpson, who notes that the brewery is a non-voting associate member of the CBBD. "We, Sierra Nevada and Stone Brewing have all asked to have our logos taken off their website."

Nor does the Colorado Beer Distributors Association (CBDA) seem eager to back up their California brethren. While the CBBD has donated money in the past to fight other pro-marijuana initiatives in California, the CBDA and the rest of the Colorado beer industry has remained on the political sidelines in this state's marijuana debate.

"Beer and marijuana are totally unrelated, and there is no connection to what is going on in California with Colorado," says association president Steve Findley.

Still, Tvert wonders how the local beer industry will react to the prospect -- possibly in the not-so-distant future -- of a new kind of "bud" being sold legally alongside Budweiser at places like Red Rocks Amphitheatre. "I haven't seen any activity out of them yet," Tvert says, "so it will be interesting to see how things shake out as we move toward a legalization initiative of our own here."

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