In fight over marijuana, alcohol becomes taboo

While alcohol is usually a fixture of most political fundraisers, there will be no wine or cocktails at events focused on the marijuana initiative.

The opposition group Big Marijuana Big Mistake is hosting its first fundraiser Tuesday, and the only beverages available will be “delicious lemonade, sparkling waters, all kinds of fun pop and soda,” says Deborah Williams.

Williams is the former Democratic Party Chair, and she’s co-hosting the event alongside former Govs. Frank Murkowski and Bill Sheffield. Because the ballot initiative they’re fighting would allow the sale of marijuana, organizers decided weeks ago that they should make the event substance free.

“Former Rep. Alyce Hanley recommended that we make this event alcohol-free, and we all enthusiastically agreed,” says Williams.

But the group didn’t originally make it clear that their event was going to be dry. On Tuesday morning, sponsors of the marijuana initiative sent out a press release advising people who attend the fundraiser to “exercise caution” if offered alcohol because it is “more harmful” than marijuana. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol also pointed out that Murkowski received nearly $20,000 in political contributions from the beverage industry during his last decade in the U.S. Senate.

Williams believes the attack was uncalled for, and described implication of hypocrisy and the comments on Murkowski as “nasty.”

But Chris Rempert, who is the political director for the pro-marijuana campaign, still believes the criticism of his opponents is merited, even if they’re not serving hard drinks at their event.

“Alcohol is frequently a major part of political events, and since their invitation was touting refreshments and since the event was being hosted by an alcohol friendly governor like Murkowski, we felt it was important to convey the message,” says Rempert.

For their part, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol does not plan on serving alcohol at any future events they host.

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