State stores ≠ State liquor stores

“Majority of Pennsylvania voters want legal cannabis, poll shows — just not in state stores,” says a headline in the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.

But that’s totally misleading, because that’s not what the poll asked.  Here’s the actual question: “How likely would you be to support the legalization of marijuana if it were sold by the state liquor stores instead of by private companies?”

Not state stores selling just marijuana — state liquor stores, selling both.

Is that difference a big deal?  Yes.  Public health scholars pretty much agree that liquor and cannabis should never be sold together.  Selling cannabis in state liquor stores would violate that principle.  Maybe the average voter, too, can figure out that selling two intoxicants at the same cash register is not a great idea.  The municipal cannabis store in Evergreen, Washington doesn’t sell liquor.  No cannabis store in the country does.  Mixing booze and weed is problematic – and so is the question the poll asked.

Prominent marijuana journalist and legalization proponent Ricardo Baca had this headline:   “Why Cannabis and Alcohol Sales Should Never, Ever be Co-located.”  Co-use is not the only problem Baca identifies.  He points out the danger that the liquor industry will gobble up the nascent cannabis industry – and mainly argues that deadly alcohol should be in a separate category from safer cannabis.

For what they are worth, here are the answers from Pennsylvania to the state liquor store question:
Much more likely 12%
Somewhat more likely 20%
Somewhat less likely 18%
Much less likely 40%
Do not know 11%

A better question for voters is this, from North Carolina in 2013:

“If marijuana were legal in NC, do you think it should be taxed and sold in state-owned stores the way liquor is, or in private retail stores, like beer and wine are?”

58% State-owned stores.
19% Private stores……….
23% No opinion……………

Not alongside liquor, but in like liquor, in separate, single-purpose stores.  A nuance? I don’t think so.  Now maybe state liquor stores in North Carolina are more popular than state liquor stores in Pennsylvania.  But selling cannabis alongside liquor is not the same as selling the two drugs in separate places.



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