Berkeley Passes Sin Tax on Soda

But San Francisco rejects a similar measure.


The city of Berkeley, California, took another step away from its freewheeling past yesterday. Politico reports:

The day they put the mind of a cop into the head of a hippie.
Berkeley Barb

Berkeley, Calif., a city known for its progressive politics, made history Tuesday night by approving the first real sin tax on soda in the United States.

Voters approved Measure D, a penny-per-ounce tax, by a three-to-one margin after a bitter campaign battle, with the beverage industry spending more than $2.1 million to oppose the initiative. The pro-tax campaign was bolstered by more than $650,000 from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Berkeley has now done what more than two dozen other cities and states have tried and failed to do in recent years: Put in place a punitive tax on sugar sweetened-beverage tax designed to reduce consumption and raise revenue. The measure, which covers sports drinks, sweet teas and beverage syrups used in coffee shops, would raise the price of a 20-ounce Coca-Cola by about 10 percent. The tax, which does not apply to diet sodas, kicks in Jan. 1, 2015.

The prohibitionist impulse fared more poorly across the bay, where a similar measure failed in San Francisco.

Speaking of local referendums and the regulation of people's pleasures, I should also note some happy news from South Portland, Maine, where voters approved a ballot measure decriminalizing the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. That has understandably received less attention than legalization's big victories yesterday in Alaska, Oregon, and D.C., but it's still worth noting. Celebrate with the burning weed or sugary beverage of your choice.