The most difficult part of moving away from Colorado has not been the weather (it’s basically been 70 degrees outside since October), or the culture (the food here is the best, and I haven’t heard a jam band since I got here). It’s been my sentimental attachment to mountains and I’ve been trying to feed that sense of loss by going on little swamp hikes. There are dozens of wild areas that throw a little boardwalk out into the swamp and it feels like you’re walking into the middle of the bayou,in the middle of all the wild. I’ve seen ospreys and alligators, and last time, I saw a baby raccoon swimming through the swamp. It’s nice, but it’s not a mountain. I just know there is no substitute and I’ll just have to make it back to get my fill of scenic vistas and wild hot springs and that feeling of being on top of the world. It’s tough missing all that, but I can deal with it, knowing that everyone in my Facebook feed is appreciating it on a regular basis.
The one thing that I can’t deal with, and the second most difficult part of moving away, is becoming a criminal. Yes, pretty much from Day 1 of my time in Louisiana, I became a criminal. I am in possession of marijuana, and sometimes I buy it … from a drug dealer! It’s a difficult and strange world, I know; it’s like a bizarro “Twilight Zone” episode or something. But, if there’s one thing craft beer is good for, it’s spreading the love of recreational marijuana. The first person to smoke me out was a sales rep from a large craft brewery known for their love of weed (Google: “St. Patrick’s Day Massacre 2005” for an excellent read). The first person to offer me weed for sale was also employed by a craft brewery.
Weed and craft beer go so well together, it’s hard to imagine the slew of articles that came out last fall/winter each with headlines akin to “Legal Weed Damages Craft Beer Sales.” The beer distributors of Massachusetts donated to the opposition campaign to legalize weed in Massachusetts (it passed anyway). Sam Adams released a statement saying that the legalization could hurt profits (let’s be honest, there are likely other things that are hurting Sam Adams profits than legal weed). And the Brewer’s Association released its own study on the subject (which basically said, you can’t prove anything).
The thought process behind all these fears was that people have a set amount of money for “fun” and that money spent on weed would cut into the money spent on beer. Which totally ignores two very important facts:
1. People are already spending money on both weed and beer; weed is just illegal, so you can’t keep track of that money.
2. The prices of weed will go down once it becomes legal, thus freeing up more money for weed and beer.
Plus, the Beer Distributors of Massachusetts (the official trade organization) are corrupt as [expletive], recently getting caught in a pay-to-play scandal, auctioning off tap handles to the highest bidder.
Honestly, I think there’s a beautiful symbiotic relationship between the two industries, and, at the heart of that, is the fight against prohibition.
I think states with the best beer, also have legal weed. The Brewer’s Association is right, you can’t really prove that there is a connection between the sales of beer and the legalization of weed, but this statistic is hard to argue against: California, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, Maine, Alaska, Nevada, and D.C. have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Last year, these states combined for exactly half of all the medals won at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival (144 out of 288 medals).
Robert Alan Wendeborn is a former cellar operator at Ska Brewing and current lead cellar operator at Tin Roof Brewing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.