This Joint’s for You

Various people from the brewing industry are exploring ways to capitalize on the growing recreational marijuana market. According to the Chicago Tribune, Chris Burrggraeve, a former Anheuser Bush InBev NV executive, has invested in a San Francisco startup, Green Rush Group. He is also a co-founder of Toast. This company makes pre-rolled joints or “slices”.

Green Rush enables people to order marijuana from local dispensaries, It is primarily focused on medical marijuana but if someone doesn’t have a prescription they can get one online for $39. Toast’s products are available on the Green Rush website and their own website tells you where  concrete stores are located that sell the product.

Burrgggraeve is not the only person from the brewing industry who is getting involved in cannabis sales. Constellation Brands,  the number three beer company in the States and the  importers of Corona, has invested in Canopy Growth Corp., This company is Canadian and considers itself “a world leading diversified cannabis company.

These investments are in anticipation of changes in federal drug laws. Currently marijuana is illegal under federal law but both recreational and medical use is legal in eight states. Under the current administration that is not likely to happen but more states will probably pass legislation legalizing recreational marijuana since it is seen as a source of revenue


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Amherst Weed

I am an Amherst Town Meeting member. This past Monday we started deliberating at the Special Fall Town Meeting. There are seventeen articles on the warrant including five that deal with marijuana.

In 2016 Massachusetts voters legalized recreational marijuana. A few years earlier the state permitted medical marijuana. In the years following passage of medical marijuana, Amherst received four applications to establish medical marijuana dispensaries. The four are in various stages of development but none are open yet.

With the legalization of recreational marijuana, all four dispensaries have the option of either adding retail sales to their practice or converting to a solely retail establishment. I believe that at least some of the four applicants knew recreational retail use was coming and wanted to be first in line to access the large sales market that is likely to exist in a college town.

Three of the four will be located on a road that leads to the University of Massachusetts. The state voted for legalization with a little over fifty percent while Amherst voted for it with a seventy percent margin. Some municipalities have rejected having any retail marijuana outlets while Amherst is moving ahead with both medical and recreational facilities.

In the Town Meeting discussion about how many retail outlets to have (we decided on eight) as well as what zoning restrictions to place on retail establishments, I noticed a lot of fear. Unlike alcohol, the legal sale of marijuana is a new thing. Some people spoke about marijuana being safer than alcohol while others pointed out the problems with alcohol use that should not be repeated.

It is interesting that alcohol is the frame of reference for most people. If alcohol was being newly legislated would there be such easy access? It is possible that one hundred years from now marijuana will occupy a comparable level of acceptance.

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Drinking Responsibly

Someone recently wrote a letter to the editor of The Roanoke Times complaining about the ubiquity of beer related stories in the paper. Writing from a public health perspective, Mr. Klein found it bewildering that a women’s health event that a local clinic was sponsoring was being held at a brewery. He wrote, “Have we really gotten to the point as a society where alcohol is so pervasive that it has to be used to entice people to every social event even those designed to promote a healthy lifestyle.”

Klein finds the integration and normalization of alcohol throughout society troubling. This was a big point of contention for the public health activists on the Massachusetts Alcohol Tax Force sub-committee that I served on. They were all people who were working to prevent underage drinking. They also felt that the presence of alcohol at so many community events sends mixed messages. This is something Klein also pointed out.

Klein reminded readers that alcohol consumption can lead to addiction; something that is overlooked in the promotion of events. He apparently lives in Blacksburg, Virginia which is a college town. I also live in a college town where students periodically drink to excess.

There were seven comments in response to Klein’s letter. One pointed out that college students are probably not drinking craft beer which has a higher price point. Most of the other comments focused on the economic benefits of beer to the local economy This is the perennial tension between the public health movement and officials seeking economic development.

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Shipping Wine

There was an interesting article in Wednesday’s New York Times about a crackdown on interstate shipping of wine. Since Prohibition the three-tier system has existed in the liquor industry. The tiers are wholesalers, retailers, and producers. Because of this system and prior to the explosion of craft brewery, wholesalers became the biggest segment of the liquor industry.

They have a considerable amount of power and are behind the efforts to curtail interstate shipping of alcoholic beverages. Prior to the advent of the internet some interstate shipping through catalogs went on under the radar of legal authorities. The internet changed all that and it is very easy for anyone, even a minor, to click on an image of a wine bottle and receive it in the mail in a few days.

The retail tier of the three-tier systems is also changing due to the entry of big box stores such as Costco and Trader Joe’s. Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods further complicates the landscape. It is almost the eighty-fourth anniversary of Repeal. It is not clear if the three-tier system erected at that time will continued to exist in its present form for much longer.


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Drinking at Home

I am re-posting a blog from March 27, 2008 which I wrote in response to an article by Eric Asimov about his children drinking at home. Preventing underage drinking was the main focus of the public health advocates who served on the subcommittee of the Massachusetts Alcohol Tax Force with me.

Home Sipping

March 27,2008

In today’s New York Times, Eric Asimov has an article discussing introducing adolescents to alcohol in a family setting. His children are sixteen and seventeen and he is contemplating giving them sips of wine with dinner. Asimov reviews some of the debate over the wisdom of allowing young people under the age of twenty-one to drink and discusses, to a limited extent, European models of family and adolescent drinking The personal decision Asimov and his wife are contemplating is a small example of a long-standing debate in the field of alcohol attitudes.

Temperance and prohibition advocates in the nineteenth and early twentieth century were adamantly opposed to young people drinking and they developed Scientific Temperance, a curriculum designed to educate students about the physiologically of drinking. The lesson often included demonstration of a shriveled liver. For prohibitionists drinking and alcohol abuse were societal problems which required a societal responses. In this world view there was no room for individual choice or decision and when and where it as appropriate to drink.

Cirrohotic Liver

Following Repeal, the liquor industry worked hard to reestablish liquor as an appropriate beverage and re-integrate drinking in family life. The medical and scientific community helped brewers and distillers in this endeavor by reformulating problem drinking and alcohol abuse as a medical and individual problem.

Brewers, both before and after Prohibition, saw beer as the beverage of moderation which could be enjoyed throughout society. German immigrants enjoyed drinking in a family setting, the beer garden. The beer garden represented brewers highest ambitions for the place of beer in American society. However the saloon, a less wholesome public place for drinking predominated in the years prior to Prohibition.

Although the alcohol studies field has been successful in defining alcoholism as an individual disease, since the 1970’s an alternative formulation, in many ways closer to the vies of prohibitionists has emerged. Because of societal problems such as drunk driving, cirrhosis, and fetal alcohol syndrome, public health advocates have argued for societal responses to these problems. The raising of the minimum drinking age in 1984, warning labels on alcoholic beverages, and ongoing battles to restrict television advertising of beer are examples.

It is this social context that is missing from Asimov’s discussion of his personal decision about introducing his children to alcohol. Although he does reference the issue of driving he seems to assume that the only influence on young people choices around drinking will be family. Beer is so integrated into our society on so many different levels that its cultural influence on young people must be accounted for.

Acknowledging the cultural influence of beer does not mean that an individual family which enjoys drinking in a moderate way, whether it be wine beer or a cocktail, can not convey those responsible habits to their children. It would be naive, however, to accept that this “normalizing” of alcohol will be able to provide universal protection against such young adult dangers as binge drinking or ritual drinking around turning twenty-one.



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On Monday I started the 11 Day Anxiety Challenge. Wednesday’s task was to find five things you are grateful for. Here are my five things:

  1. My family – My husband and sons mean everything to me.
  2. My house – I am so happy I am able to afford my home. I have worked very hard over the years to make it a lovely place to live.
  3. Exercise – I am very glad I am physically able to exercise since I have interstitial cystitis which is so debilitating for so many people.
  4. Ice skating – The reasons for being grateful for exercise hold true for ice skating with the additional thought of  being able to do it at my age.
  5.  Birds – Wednesday morning I heard them chirping and it was a beautiful sound.

The black-capped chickadee is the state bird of Massachusetts.

What are some things you are grateful for? Please tell me below in the comments.





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Yesterday I completed the chapter of my book on faculty wives that I have been working on for quite a while. I started the research last year and started writing it in July. Just like it is hard for a pitcher to close out innings it is hard for a writer to know when to stop writing. There is always more research to do and more books to read.

I decided it was finished because I can’t work on it any longer. I  have covered the points I wanted to make so I am going to put it aside and start something new. After writing a first draft of something, you need to let it sit for a while.

The chapter is about African-American faculty wives and their clubs. Several of the women became very prominent in the black community; some like Margaret Washington had stature in the white community as well. Most faculty wives clubs, black or white, were primarily focused on their academic community. The service they provided was most often to the school itself.

The first generation of African-American faculty wives operated on a larger stage. They used their position and connections to make a difference in the community their school was located in as well as in national organizations such as the National Association of Colored Women.

I also looked at clubs that fit the more typical pattern of inward involvement with their school. The Howard University Faculty Wives Association primarily focused on the school, setting up a scholarship and loan fund. In their programming, however, they  had a more global orientation, inviting the Haitian minister and his wife to an event as well as Mr. Francis Nwia- Kofi Nkrumah who later became the first president of Ghana.

The chapter started out one way and took a different focus after I had done more research. I learned a lot about both the writing process and African-American women and their history by doing this chapter.

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Ballantine Ale

Prior to German immigration to the United States following the Revolution of 1848, American brewers brewed ale in the English style. Once the German brewers started brewing lager beer, that style took off in popularity and eclipsed most of the ale brewers.

One brewery that persisted in brewing English style ale was Ballantine Beer. Peter Ballantine, a Scottish immigrant founded Ballantine Ale in Newark New Jersey, in 1833. By 1877 it was the nation’s fourth largest brewer and the only one that brewed ale exclusively.

During Prohibition Ballantine produced maple syrup to stay in business. After Repeal, Carl and Otto Badenhausen, brothers, purchased the brewery from the descendants of Peter Ballantine. The brothers hired a Scottish brewmaster so that the ale would remain a distinctive product. Ballantine sponsored radio broadcasts of the New York Yankees during the 1940’s and 50’s. In 1950 the company was the third largest in the country.

By the 1960’s the brewery was declining and Carl Badenhasuen first sold it to Investors funding Company, which was an investment firm. In 1972 the bankers sold the company to Falstaff. When Pabst purchased Falstaff in 1985, Ballantine became part of the Pabst stable of beers.

The Ballantine home is part of the Newark Museum. According to the New York Times, Thomas Jabor, a member of the Morris Area Society of Home Brewers, will be offering a four session course on brewing beer at Ballantine House in Newark.

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Always Taxes

At the latest Alcohol Task Force sub-committee excise taxes came up again as an issue. The lone public health person strongly encouraged the committee to think about raising the state excise tax on liquor which hasn’t been increased since the 1970’s. The business people strongly objected. I tried to make the point, using the federal tax structure as an example, that there could be a way to raise taxes but protect smaller producers. The craft brewer on the committee protested, saying “I pay the same as Anheuser Busch.” This is just not true.

 Since 1976 small brewers have had a differential federal tax rate. The Beer Institute, the large brewers trade lobby, which is pushing the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, legislation for tax relief, explains the tax structure:

“Existing federal excise taxes on beer are set at a rate of $18/barrel for brewers of more than 2 million barrels (62 million gallons, or the equivalent of 110 million six-packs) and all beer importers. Since the late 1970s, growth in the small brewing sector has been encouraged by tax credits offered to brewers which produce less than 2 million barrels, cutting their excise tax rate to $7/barrel on the first 60,000 barrels and allowing them a far lower overall effective tax rate on all barrels up to 2 million.”

The craft brewer was totally unaware of this. He apparently has software which calculates his tax rate and that is the extent of his knowledge about federal taxes. This points up a problem in messaging since both the Beer Institute and the Brewers Association, the craft brewers trade lobby, are pushing for taxes to be reduced. I am still of the opinion that they are very unlikely to succeed and the fact that brewers on the ground don’t even know it is an issue only strengths my position.


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Beer Festivals and Economic Development

This Saturday, in Hartford there will be the Small State Great Beer festival. This is the second for the event and they expected more than thirty-five brewers to participate. The beer festival was the idea of three young people with some connection to Hartford. It is being held downtown in Constitution Plaza.

Beer festivals like this are part of the growing trend of municipalities seeking economic development from craft brewing. I am currently serving on a subcommittee of the Massachusetts Alcohol Task Force ( You can read about that here).
My committee is looking at Public Health, Safety and Prevention. Another committee is looking at local economic development.

These two goals could be in conflict since increased economic development via craft brewing will most likely lead to more retail outlets and more drinking. One of the key points of the public health movement around alcohol  abuse is to try to reduce retail outlet density and control the amount of drinking that is done.

Both Massachusetts and Connecticut have a large number of craft breweries and both states as well as many others are seeking to obtain revenue from these establishments.







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