For many Americans, it may be hard to find anything positive that came out of Tuesday's elections, but there is this: One in five Americans now live in a state where recreational marijuana is legal, and more than half the states now permit medical marijuana. And there's this, too: Three Bay Area cities and Boulder, Colorado sent a message to Big Soda, imposing taxes on sugar-filled drinks. The municipalities join Berkeley, California—which passed the first soda tax back in 2014—in an attempt to reduce diabetes and obesity in their cities by making soda-drinking a more expensive proposition.
For years, taxing soda seemed an impossibility. In fact, before Berkeley passed its measure, such taxes had lost in ballots in at least 40 municipalities.
But now there seems to be a turn of the tides. The four tax measures passed handily, despite opposition from the American Beverage Association, which spent over $21 million in the Bay Area to try to defeat the measures. That and another million in Boulder didn't do the trick—voters gave soda a smackdown in significant numbers. In Boulder, the law passed with 54.7 percent of the vote, in San Francisco by 62 percent, in Oakland by 61 percent. In Albany, California, it got a whopping 71 percent approval.
If only… well, you know.
Berkeley has seen some good come out of its soda tax. One study revealed that the tax led to a drop in the consumption of sugary drinks there by a full 20 percent. What's more, 42.5 percent of tax revenues collected from the sale of sodas in Berkeley go to public school programs dedicated to cooking, gardening, and nutrition. An additional 42.5 percent is given to organizations that are dedicated to righting health issues. The rest goes to administering the tax program.
Revenues collected from Boulder's soda tax—which will be two cents per ounce—are earmarked for health and wellness programs, including some specifically targeted at low-income people. The city is hoping to bring in $3.8 million in the first year that the new tax is in place. The Bay Area cities have not yet announced how they will be using the revenues they collect.
More legal marijuana and less soda in America. It might be little consolation for most, but not everything that came out of this week is a complete-and-total unmitigated disaster.