We Need a DUI Test for Marijuana 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017 4:17:00 PM

Barring confession, there's no way to tell if a driver is high.

Source: WSJ

By Ethan Siegel and  Alex Berezow

Aug. 22, 2017

 Cheyllyn Ranae Collinsworth, an 18-year-old Washington state resident, died in May following a car crash. The person responsible was driving under the influence of marijuana and has been charged with vehicular manslaughter. In states where marijuana is legal, car collisions are up 3%, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute. Although marijuana impairs driving ability, police knew the driver in Washington had been using the drug only because he confessed.

 No reliable on-the-spot test for marijuana intoxication exists. Urine tests, used widely by employers, are not useful for testing impairment. They detect breakdown products of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, marijuana's psychoactive component. Such metabolites can be found months after a marijuana high has worn off. Making the problem worse, there is very little data on the short- or long-term effects of marijuana on the brain and body.

 The only test that currently shows any promise for detecting intoxication is blood-plasma analysis. But empowering police officers to draw blood on the roadside would set up a dangerous precedent for individual liberties. And the connection between blood THC levels and intoxication is not well-defined, as pattern of use and dose directly affect the impairment level, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

 How to move forward? Researchers must first identify a reliable biomarker of marijuana intoxication. For alcohol, 0.08 grams of ethanol per 100 milliliters of blood has been determined scientifically to cause impairment in a substantial number of people. That's why 0.08 blood-alcohol content is the legal definition of alcohol intoxication in all states. A similar standard must be developed for THC.

 Scientists also must determine a straightforward test to detect THC intoxication. One possibility is a "breathalyzer" test for marijuana. Scientific American reports that one company, Hound Labs, claims to have created a portable device that measures the amount of marijuana consumed. Other companies are racing to develop blood-, urine- or saliva-based tests. Alternatively, a company could consider developing a test that analyzes THC with small blood samples, the way diabetics test for glucose levels.

 Another possibility is to develop a test that determines when THC was consumed. NHTSA says that impairment occurs for roughly three hours after cannabis is consumed. If the ratios of THC to its metabolites can be measured appropriately and over time, it may be possible to pin down the critical time when someone was first intoxicated.

 As more states legalize marijuana and its availability increases, ensuring responsible use will become more important. We propose that the federal government loosen its restrictions on marijuana research so that Americans better understand how the drug affects their minds and bodies. This will help quantify a meaningful marijuana intoxication standard. That rule-along with the consequences for crossing that threshold-must be derived from scientific evidence, not ideology.

 Mr. Siegel is the author of "Beyond the Galaxy" (World Scientific, 2015). Mr. Berezow is a senior fellow at the American Council on Science and Health.

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Chicago-Area Retailers Ask Appeals Court To Block Soda Tax 

Thursday, August 17, 2017 8:40:00 AM

Source: Law360

By Hannah Meisel

August 15th


A group of Chicago-area store owners Monday urged a state appeals court to block Cook County's controversial penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages, pointing to recently filed class action lawsuits and warnings from the U.S. Department of Agriculture as support for the emergency motion.


The rollout of the soda tax two weeks ago has not been smooth, resulting in three major class action lawsuits against Walgreens, McDonald's and 7-Eleven for improper collection of the tax, though the suit against McDonald's was dismissed on Tuesday. Additionally, the USDA last week threatened to withhold $87 million in funding from the state of Illinois if Chicago's Cook County doesn't change its sweetened beverage tax to comply with federal law dealing with food stamp recipients.


The suits, coupled with the consternation over the tax's rollout, is reason enough to stay the tax while the Illinois Retail Merchants Association appeals the decision by a Cook County judge late last month to let the tax go forward, the store owners said.


"The significance of these lawsuits, all filed within the first week of the tax being implemented, is direct support for the arguments made by plaintiffs in the circuit court as to the harm that would occur as a result of the vagueness, confusion and inconsistencies within the ordinance, not only to retailers but to consumers who would also be directly affected," the business group wrote in its Monday motion. "The defendants' position that lawsuits for over-collection and other improper application of the tax was purely speculative has been quashed, as those lawsuits are now real."


The Illinois Retail Merchants Association, along with a group of Chicago-area grocers, sued Cook County over the tax in late June, just days before the tax was supposed to go into effect on July 1. The business groups claimed the tax was unconstitutionally vague and violated the Illinois Constitution's uniformity clause.


Cook County Circuit Judge Daniel Kubasiak stayed the tax while making a decision on the case, but ultimately ruled in favor of the county late last month, writing in his opinion that he had faith that grocers would figure out how to implement the tax and not run afoul of federal guidelines on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, colloquially known as food stamps.


But Monday's motion from the business groups maintains that the grocers haven't been able to figure it out, pointing to the USDA's threats last week and the three large class actions filed.


"There will certainly be more lawsuits to come if a stay of the tax is not put in place during this appeal," the merchants association wrote. "These lawsuits do not even reach the other issue of harm from inability to obtain refunds."


In the suit filed against convenience store giant Walgreens, Illinois resident Vincent De Leon alleged the chain is indiscriminately charging the newly enacted tax on beverages like unsweetened tea and sparkling water, which are supposed to be exempt from the tax, costing him and other shoppers roughly 75 cents per six-pack they should not have been charged.


On Aug. 4, De Leon allegedly was charged the tax on a case of Dasani Tropical Pineapple Sparkling Water "which is clearly labeled 'unsweetened,'" according to his complaint.


On Tuesday, Republican members of the Illinois House of Representatives introduced a bill that would repeal the tax, though it's unlikely to go anywhere in the Democratically controlled Illinois Legislature.


"This pop tax is a repeated example of another financial burden being imposed upon the people of Cook County," Rep. Michael McAuliffe, R-Chicago, said in a statement Tuesday. "The vetting of this measure was short-sighted and irresponsible as roll-outs of similar pop taxes in other cities have proven to be not effective and even harmful to the local economy. I spent this past weekend in my district and the feedback against this tax was overwhelmingly negative. The taxpayers are understandably frustrated and there is a lot of confusion."


Representatives from the parties could not be reached for comment Tuesday.


The plaintiffs are represented by Marilyn Wethekam, Jordan Goodman and David Ruskin of Horwood Marcus & Berk Chartered.


Cook County is represented by Kimberly M. Foxx, Sisavanh Baker and James S. Beligratis of the Cook County State's Attorney's Office.


The case is Illinois Retail Merchants Association et al. v. The Cook County Department of Revenue et al., case number 2017L050596, in Cook County Circuit Court.

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7 Science-Backed Ways Beer Is Good for Your Health 

Tuesday, August 08, 2017 2:27:00 PM

 A beer a day may keep the doctor away.


Source: NBC News



Sometimes there's nothing better than cracking open a cold one after a long day.


We tend to view beer as an indulgence - maybe because we associate all those suds with a beer gut and inevitable weight gain. But you'll be happy to hear that, when consumed in moderation (we repeat, moderation), the benefits of beer go far beyond helping you wind down after a stressful week.


What exactly constitutes "drinking in moderation," anyway? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines moderate alcohol consumption as having one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. While research does show there is room for imbibing as part of a balanced, healthy diet, they also advise not to start drinking if you currently abstain.


But if you do keep a six-pack in the fridge, crack open a cold one and say "cheers" to these health benefits!




Many experts agree that beer is more like a food than a beverage - after all, it is referred to as liquid bread. While that does mean you need to be mindful of how many calories you're sipping in each glass, it also means the liquid contains some good-for-you nutrients.


According to one study, "beer contains more protein and B vitamins than wine. The antioxidant content of beer is equivalent to that of wine, but the specific antioxidants are different because the barley and hops used in the production of beer contain flavonoids different from those in the grapes used in the production of wine."


Charlie Bamforth, a professor of brewing sciences at the University of California, Davis, also claims that beer trumps wine when it comes to B vitamins, phosphorus, folate and niacin. Beer also has significant protein and some fiber. And it is one of a few significant dietary sources of silicon, which research shows can help prevent osteoporosis. Preliminary research by Bamforth also suggests that beer may contain prebiotics that feed the good bacteria in our gut.




A new study published in the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes found that people who drink 3 to 4 times per week were less likely to develop diabetes than those who never drink. And when compared to those who didn't drink beer, men who enjoyed between one and six beers per week had a 21 percent lower risk of diabetes.




Wine tends to be the choice on the bar menu associated with a healthy heart. But there's reason to love beer for the same reason. A preliminary study presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2016 followed 80,000 participants for six years and found that moderate drinkers had the slowest decline in high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, levels - and in turn, a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases. Research also shows that of men who have already suffered a heart attack, those that drank beer moderately were 42 percent less likely to die of heart disease.


A report from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study also confirmed that moderate drinkers were 30 to 35 percent less likely to have had a heart attack than non-drinkers. The study also found that men who drank every day had a lower risk of heart attack than those who drank once or twice a week.




Move over milk - there's a new bone-building beverage in the fridge. A review published in the International Journal of Endocrinology found that moderate beer consumption leads to increased bone density in men. No, it's not the buzz that's helping those bones grow: it's the silicon found in your pint, which is an essential mineral for bone formation.




Another benefit of having silicon on the ingredients list? It helps protect your brain from compounds thought to eventually cause cognitive diseases. Which may be why researchers at Loyola University in Chicago found that moderate beer drinkers are 23 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's and dementia than those who don't drink beer. Another explanation: Beer is shown to raise good cholesterol which improves blood flow to the brain.


And ordering a few pints may give you a boost at trivia night. According to one study, people with a slight beer buzz solved puzzles faster than their sober counterparts. In fact, alcohol made subjects almost 30 percent more likely to find the unexpected solution.




A study published in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology found that beer can keep bacteria from forming - and growing - on your teeth. The researchers tested the effects of beer extracts on the bacteria that form biofilm and promote tooth decay and gum disease, and found that even the weakest extract of beer tested blocked the activity of bacteria. Beer was also one of the best extracts for blocking communication between bacteria, which slows their growth. Good old Guinness was the beer they used in testing - another reason to channel your inner Irishman at the bar.




Next time your spouse asks why you're still at the bar, tell them you're fighting inflammation.


Inflammation in the body is the underlying cause behind many diseases, and according to a study published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, hops (an essential ingredient in beer) has anti-inflammatory properties. The researchers compared the anti-inflammatory effect of different hops and found that the consumption of hops in beer form interfered with inflammation causing compounds.




A study conducted by a psychologist at the University of Texas found that people who drink heavily live longer than those who don't. But don't use it as a license to binge drink this weekend because heavy alcohol use can negatively impact your health. The jury is still out, but studies suggest that a healthy amount of beer can add years to your life, given that it positively impacts cholesterol levels, lowers your risk of diabetes and strengthens your heart.


Also, drinking beer tends to be a group activity, which may play a role in its health benefits as well, since science shows having an active social life is linked to a longer lifespan.


Regardless of the reason why, we'll take it as a reason to crack open a cold one tonight.

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Wisconsin: Tavern League: 'We'll continue to fight' bill to change Wisconsin liquor laws 

Friday, August 04, 2017 1:46:00 PM

Source: The Capital Times

By Katelyn Ferral

August 2, 2017

Wisconsin's Tavern League said Tuesday it will fight a Republican bill that would loosen the state's liquor laws for craft brewers, wineries and distilleries.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Gary Tauchen, R-Bonduel, would significantly roll back limitations on liquor manufacturers, wineries, craft brewers and distillers, by allowing them to serve and sell each other's products. The current limitations are in place as a part of the state's three-tier system, a framework of laws outlining how alcohol manufacturers, distributors and retailers can operate.

Pete Madland, executive director of the Wisconsin Tavern League, said the proposal dismantles the three-tier system and hurts mom and pop taverns. 

 "We're going to strongly oppose this. It breaks down the three-tier system ... it takes producers and turns them into retailers," Madland said. "Our problem is that it gives the producers who compete with our members a distinct advantage because they get their products at the cost of the product while our members have to absorb their cost of production as well as distribution. It obviously puts us at a disadvantage. The three-tier system was set up so they didn't have to compete with those people."

Small, locally owned taverns have dwindled in the state, decreasing from about 15,000 in the 1990s to 11,000 today, Madland said.

"Mom and pop taverns are a tradition here in Wisconsin. For these legislators to hold out a helping hand to these manufacturers who are wildly successful at the expense of these mom and pop taverns is shameful," he said. "When a manufacturer of wine can also retail beer and liquor and also wine... Miller Brewery could have weddings at their brewery. This is absurd."

Tauchen's proposal would also increase the number of licenses issued to taverns, restaurants or stores to sell alcohol. Madland said that provision is unnecessary and would further strain the state's ability to enforce violations of its current liquor laws. 

"Wisconsin ranks third in the country with the number of licenses per capita ... the lack of liquor outlets here in Wisconsin is absurd," he said. "I work with the Department of Revenue almost on a daily basis. I know they're frustrated because there are a lot of violations going on out there. They just don't have the manpower to enforce the outlets in the state."

Tauchen's bill was applauded Tuesday by Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, and Rep. Shannon Zimmerman, R- River Falls, at an event at the Wisconsin Brewing Company in Verona.

Harsdorf called the three-tier system "archaic" and said it is actively hampering economic development in her district.

"We have a lot of economic development opportunities ... but don't have the liquor licenses that are critical to attracting businesses," she said.

Zimmerman owns a winery, and said he has seen firsthand how the current system of laws limits business growth. He said he does not see his ownership of a winery, that would stand to benefit from the bill he is promoting, as a conflict of interest. He said many other small businesses would benefit from the bill, which would affect brewers and distillers, too.

"I do not need that winery to pay my mortgage," he said. The other components of the bill can help hundreds of other businesses, including distillers and craft brewers, he said.

Craft brewers cheered the bill as an important step.

Carl Nolen, president and CEO of Wisconsin Brewing Company, said he has experienced the three-tier system from all sides. He worked as a beer distributor before becoming a beer manufacturer and his father and grandfather owned taverns in the state.

"I think the era of modernizing the state's liquor laws is way overdue," he said. "To be modern, we need to keep pace as time goes by. We shouldn't be living with laws that go back since 1933." 

Mark Garthwaite, executive director of the Wisconsin Brewers Guild, said the bill is a pragmatic approach to helping small businesses.

"This is a positive first step that removes barriers to growth for small breweries in Wisconsin," he said. 

The bill has an uncertain future in the Legislature as lawmakers work to finish a state budget that is already one month late and consider Foxconn legislation in a special session this month. But Tauchen and Zimmerman said they believe the bill has the power to be successful.

Madland said the Tavern League will fight it.

"We'll continue to fight this and all legislation we see as a detriment to our membership," he said.

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New Jersey to Raise Tobacco Purchase Age to 21 

Friday, August 04, 2017 1:43:00 PM

Becomes the third state to make the move; change takes effect Nov. 1

July 25, 2017

TRENTON, N.J. -- New Jersey is the third state in the nation to raise the age at which a customer can legally buy tobacco products to 21, according to

Only California and Hawaii have similar age restrictions. New Jersey’s age change will take effect Nov. 1.

Signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie on July 22, the new requirement bumps up the minimum age for buying and selling both tobacco and electronic-smoking devices from 19 to 21.

Younger people don’t “fully comprehend the potential for addiction, as well as the devastating long-term effects smoking can have on their health,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, a co-sponsor of the bill, according to the news source. Raising the purchasing age, she said, will enable them to “mature more before making this potentially life-altering decision.”

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Ballast Point Brewing to Open Chicago Venue in 2018 

Tuesday, August 01, 2017 4:32:00 PM

Source: San Diego BJ


July 30, 2017

San Diego-based Ballast Point Brewing Co. plans to open a tasting room and kitchen early next year in Chicago, which will be the beer-maker's first location in the Midwest.

A company statement said the 12,000-square-foot venue, in Chicago's Fulton Market District, will house a three-barrel "research and development" brewery with a restaurant and a rooftop bar.

The venue will serve several Ballast Point beers including its flagship Sculpin IPA, along with exclusive, limited-edition brews available only at the Chicago location. The opening is planned for early 2018, though a specific date was not announced.

"We're thrilled to bring the San Diego spirit of Ballast Point to such a great beer-drinking city like Chicago," Ballast Point President Marty Birkel said in the statement. Officials said the Chicago restaurant's menu will include items from its San Diego venues, including Baja-style fish tacos and a house-made pretzel with beer mustard, along with more localized fare.

Ballast Point currently operates its main office and brewing facilities in Miramar, along with six tasting room and restaurant locations including Little Italy, Long Beach and Temecula. The company recently opened a brewery and tasting room in Daleville, Va., and is in the process of building out its East Coast production facilities in suburban Roanoke.

Established in 1996 by founder Jack White, Ballast Point was acquired in 2015 by New York-based Constellation Brands, for a reported $1 billion. White last year left the company to start his own craft spirits company, known as Cutwater Spirits in Miramar.

According to the Brewers Association trade group, Ballast Point is the nation's 13th largest beer-maker based on 2016 sales volume, though it is no longer considered a craft beer company by the association due to its corporate ownership.

Ballast Point maintains its own local headquarters and management team and is the largest of more than 100 beer producers based in San Diego County. It brewed 375,000 barrels in 2016, up from 277,152 in 2015, the company reported earlier this year.

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Consolidation Comes with Legal Challenges 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017 4:48:00 PM

Mergers among alcohol distributors have taken off during the past few years.


July 25, 2017

The uptick in mergers among U.S. alcohol distributors has been followed closely by another trend: lawsuits. As many major markets have come to be served by just a few companies, their competitors and customers have retaliated with legal push back.

One of the most recent legal fights is taking place in West Virginia, where one of the nation's largest distributors, Johnson Brothers Liquor Co., and its West Virginia subsidiary Mountain State Beverage are facing a lawsuit from smaller wholesalers.

The Minnesota-based company is the fifth-largest wholesaler in the United States, according to Wines Vines Analytics, and was sued by six smaller distributors in West Virginia. According to a statement by the law firm Bailey & Glasser, which is representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in early July, Mountain State Beverage used "anticompetitive" practices in an attempt to monopolize the wine market in West Virginia by forcing smaller companies either to sell or go out of business.

The distributors filing suit against Mountain State Beverage include Wine and Beverage Merchants of West Virginia, Atomic Distributing Co., Beverage Distributors Inc., Jo's Globe Inc. and Martin Distributing Co. The companies claim Johnson Brothers and Mountain State operated at a loss to drive competitors out of business, paid fees and used other tactics to induce suppliers to not do business with the plaintiffs and regularly claimed to suppliers and the plaintiffs' employees that the companies would soon go out of business. 

In March of this year, a judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by New York-based Empire Merchants against Breakthru Beverage Group that was formed following the merger of Wirtz Beverage Group and Charmer Sunbelt.

Empire had alleged Breakthru smuggled millions of dollars' worth of alcohol into the New York market via a subsidiary company in Maryland. The case was dismissed with prejudice by a U.S. district judge.

In November of 2016, an owner of several bars in Albany, N.Y., filed a lawsuit against the nation's largest distributor: Southern Glazer's. The owners sought $1.25 million in damages and alleged a Southern employee fabricated thousands of dollars of orders of sales and also charged more than $100,000 through the bars' Southern accounts for alcohol that may have been sold on the side.

According to reports in the The Times Union newspaper, the attorney representing the bars rejected an offer to settle the case because Southern refused to acknowledge such abuses by its staff were widespread.

The company later released a statement to the Albany paper that it plans to "vigorously defend" itself against the "inaccurate" claims in the suit and blamed the wrongful conduct on "a single employee acting independently of company policy and who has been terminated."

The current status of the case is unclear, and James Linnan, the Albany attorney representing the bars, did not immediately return a call or email for comment by Wines & Vines.

The claims in that case are quite similar to allegations in a lawsuit filed earlier this month. Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits is the target of a class-action lawsuit that alleges "unfair, unlawful, deceptive and fraudulent business practices" that run afoul of numerous state and federal laws.

The lawsuit was filed July 5 in the U.S. District Court of Northern California by the firms Scott Cole & Associates APC and Wakeford Gelini on behalf of San Jose, Calif., resident James C. Nguyen, who holds a liquor license for a San Jose restaurant and bar.

According to the lawsuit, Nguyen learned of Southern's allegedly deceptive practices after he received a tax bill from the state for liquor he never ordered from the wholesaler.

That's because his attorneys argue Southern's management and employees made a habit of using their customers' account numbers to process fraudulent purchases to either achieve their sales quotas or drive up business for lucrative accounts. The lawsuit also alleges Southern sold alcohol to unlicensed third parties as well as provided full-size liquor bottles with "sample" labels for free or sold alcohol for a penny per bottle as "kickbacks" or as a way to keep retailers and restaurants from reporting any unethical behavior.

Southern is also accused of threatening to cut off supply if a restaurant or retailer didn't buy sufficient quantities of brands offered by the wholesaler.

The goal, according to the lawsuit, was to maintain exclusive and profitable relations with the top suppliers and extract as much profit as possible from restaurant and retail clients. "Through its unscrupulous, unethical and unlawful schemes detailed herein, Southern has enjoyed increased revenues, profitability and market share from its larger volume of sales," the lawsuit filing alleges. "These practices have given Southern an unfair competitive advantage over its competition with a resultant disadvantage to the public and class members."

The company's practices, as described in the lawsuit, also allegedly helped secure "highly desirable and highly profitable supply relationships" and that, "during the class period, Southern enjoyed numerous exclusive contracts with alcohol manufacturers/producers, with a resultantly larger client base, more orders therefrom and higher profitability."

A spokesman for Southern did not immediately reply to Wines & Vines' request for comment but was quoted in other news reports as saying the company was still reviewing the allegations in the lawsuit and did not have any comment on the lawsuit.

In a statement released after filing the lawsuit, attorney Scott Cole said the case, if successful, could "substantially" compensate many of Southern's customers for several years' of business. "Southern's clients trusted they'd be treated right-not charged for liquor they never bought, not forced to buy what they didn't need," Cole said. "The sheer number of potential violations is jaw-dropping."

According to Wines Vines Analytics' distributor database Southern operates in 44 states and distributes for 1,178 domestic wineries. On its website, the company claims to sell 150 million cases of wine and spirits per year, and Forbes estimated the firm's total revenue in 2015 at nearly $12 billion.

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Revenue from Illinois' five-year-old cigarette tax hike falls short of expectations  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017 1:28:00 PM




Five years ago last month, another tax hike was hitting pocketbooks around the state of Illinois.

In June 2012, a dollar-per-pack cigarette tax increase raised the state levy from 98 cents to $1.98. The same law also increased taxes on other products such as loose tobacco and supplies. Supporters estimated the state would see an additional $350 million each year from the hikes.

A review of data from the Illinois Department of Revenue, however, shows the number never has come close to the goal.

According to the IDR’s Annual Report of Collections, total revenue from cigarette taxes and the tobacco products tax was approximately $609 million in fiscal year 2012, the final year before the tax increases took effect.

The following year, total revenue collected from cigarettes and tobacco totaled $856 million, meaning $244 million more was brought into state coffers.

Total revenue numbers peaked in 2015, as the state collected $861 million, before falling to $844 million in fiscal year 2016.

All told, in the four years following the tax hikes, the state of Illinois fell about $419 million short of projected additional revenue from cigarettes and tobacco.

“People were saying, ‘See, this is good. People have quit smoking.’ Well, no,” state Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, said. “For about $20 a carton difference, people have no problem driving over to Indiana, to gas stations just over the border.”

Reports do indicate a decline in the smoking population in Illinois, but one that’s in line with the rest of the country.

The Illinois Department of Public Health uses the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to track adult tobacco use in the state. It shows 18.6 percent of Illinois residents identified as being a smoker in 2011. That number dropped to 15 percent in 2015, the most recent year data is available. Nationally, the rate dropped from 18.1 percent in 2012 to 15.1 percent in 2015. 

An IDPH official says there may be numerous reasons why the rate has dropped, so it’s difficult to say how big of an impact the tax increase made.

“When you’re surrounded by five states with lower cigarette taxes, the problem is when it gets to be a $15 or $20 per carton difference, people will change their behaviors,” Syverson said. “Will some people quit smoking? You might get some. But, otherwise, you’ll get a lot of migration out of the area.”

At the time of the tax hike, then-Gov. Pat Quinn also touted the increased revenue as a way to shore up the state’s Medicaid program. The state was able to access dollar-for-dollar federal matching funds from the tax on cigarettes for payments to Medicaid. But Syverson says it hasn’t made a huge difference.

“This generates a couple hundred million dollars to help pay Medicaid bills,” Syverson said. “But as a state I think we’re going to spend $10 billion or $11 billion on Medicaid each year, plus the federal matching money. Does it have an impact? Yes, but it is small compared to our overall Medicaid spend, especially since Obamacare kicked in and Medicaid costs increased dramatically.”

Meanwhile, recent cigarette tax hikes in Cook County and Chicago have left the Windy City with the highest per-pack tax in the country, totaling $6.16. Additionally, the city of Chicago raised the minimum smoking age from 18 to 21 in 2016.

Syverson says the high price of cigarettes in the state also led to an increase in smuggling across state lines. Earlier this year, a Cook County grocery store owner was charged with allegedly purchasing millions of dollars of cigarettes at St Louis-area stores and reselling them in Chicago for a much higher profit using Illinois tax rates.

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Labor department to rescind tip-pooling restrictions 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017 1:22:00 PM

Changes would let front- and back-of-house employees share tips 

Source: NRN

Jonathan Maze

Jul 21, 2017

 The federal government is planning to rescind a controversial regulation preventing restaurants from pooling tips, a major victory for industry advocates who had fought the rule for years.

 This week, the U.S. Department of Labor published a notice that it intends to rescind the tip-pooling rule, which the Obama administration put in place in 2011.

 "By all means, this is a huge victory for us," said Angelo Amador, executive director of the National Restaurant Association's Restaurant Law Center. "This is a great development."

 Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, restaurants are able to pay wait staff a lower wage as long as their tips make up the difference, which is known as a "tip credit."

 Historically, restaurants that don't take the credit have been able to take tips and "pool" them, to share with back-of-house staff. Tip pooling is designed to make pay more equitable throughout a restaurant.

 But the Obama administration repeatedly tried to change the rules to forbid tip pooling and let wait staff to keep their tips. The National Restaurant Association has repeatedly fought the efforts in court.

 "We have been litigating this since at least 2010," Amador said.

 The courts have differed in their views over whether the Department of Labor could make such a regulation, with some federal courts agreeing with the association, and others agreeing with the federal government.

 The Department of Labor's decision to rescind the rule should eliminate some confusion over the future of the regulation.

 "At least for the time being, it lifts the confusion that has been created by issuing the rule to begin with," Amador said. "Courts have been all over the place."

 Still, the rule is not in place yet, and Amador said that until it is published restaurants should still follow previous regulations forbidding tip pooling.

 "While this is good news, the law is still what the law is," Amador said. "Proceed with caution."

 Nor will the rule stop the potential litigation.

 Amador suggested that a recent court ruling against the Department of Labor led the agency to reconsider the rule. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit recently sided with the association and denied a government motion for a rehearing.

 Meanwhile, the association wants to bring tip pooling to the Supreme Court to decide once and for all whether the labor department can make such a regulation.

 Amador said the labor department opted to change the rule in part to make an argument to the Supreme Court to avoid that step. The government would argue that a Supreme Court decision is unnecessary because it rescinded the rule.

 But the association wants to continue litigating to settle the issue.

 "We want to prevent this is three years down the line a different labor secretary decides to give it another try," Amador said. "We want the Supreme Court to decide."

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Beverage Licensees Support Bipartisan Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017 1:20:00 PM
Posted on July 21, 2017

Bill Would Establish Digital Database, Bringing Copyright Ownership & Licensing Information to the Public and Stakeholders

July 21, 2017 – Bethesda, MD – American Beverage Licenses (ABL), a national trade association representing nearly 15,000 beverage alcohol retailers, announced its support today for the Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act (H.R. 3350). The bipartisan bill, introduced by Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and cosponsored by Representatives Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Blake Farenthold (R-TX), and Steve Chabot (R-OH), would establish a reliable, unified database of copyright ownership and licensing information for musical works.

“Beverage licensees thank Congressmen Sensenbrenner for his legacy of strong leadership on music licensing issues and his recognition that increasing transparency in the music licensing system benefits licensees and artists alike,” said ABL Executive Director John Bodnovich. “Many bars and taverns obtain licenses so that music can be legally played in their businesses. The database that this bill calls for will provide them with dependable information on which they can make entertainment choices for their businesses.”

Bar and tavern owners, who already operate in the traditionally-regulated beverage alcohol industry, understand the importance of observing laws and regulations, including complying with copyright laws for the public use of musical works. Beverage licensees generally use copyrighted musical works – either via streaming service, jukebox, karaoke, live bands, DJs, or otherwise – by purchasing licenses from performing rights organizations (PROs). Each year, these licensed beverage businesses support songwriters by collectively paying millions of dollars in licensing fees to PROs.

Under the current system, bars and taverns have no verifiable and reliable way to determine which musical work rights belong to each of the PROs. This prevents beverage licensees from making informed business decisions when it comes to purchasing music licenses and knowing what they are getting when they obtain licenses from PROs. This uncertainty can result in protracted disputes between small business owners and PROs. More ominously, it can lead to bars and taverns shutting down live music in their businesses altogether.

The Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act would alleviate this problem through the creation of a public database that identifies entities through which musical works are licensed in a format that reflects current technological practices; is updated on a real-time basis; and is publicly accessible without charge. By establishing the database under the Register of Copyrights, and encouraging rights owners to register their works with the database, this bill will benefit all stakeholders in the music marketplace.

“This is a bipartisan issue, affecting hospitality businesses in every town, city and state across America,” said Bodnovich. “Beverage licensees have been clear that their focus is on bringing transparency to the music licensing process. The Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act is a sensible step toward that goal, and we look forward to working with Congressman Sensenbrenner to advocate for this legislation.”

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