BOSTON — The alcohol industry is pouring money into the campaign against legalized marijuana even as purveyors of beer, wine and spirits claim to be neutral on the issue.

To date, Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Massachusetts has contributed $50,000 to the Safe and Healthy Massachusetts campaign. Beer Distributors of Massachusetts has chipped in $25,000, according to the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

Question 4 on the Nov. 8 ballot would allow Massachusetts residents 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. It would levy a 3.75 percent tax on marijuana sales while making way for a state-regulated system of retail outlets, growing facilities and testing.

Backers of the referendum say financial support for opponents is proof that alcohol businesses worry about losing market share if Massachusetts becomes the latest state to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana sales.

“I’m really not sure why they’re doing it,” said Dick Evans, an attorney and chairman of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol in Massachusetts, the main group supporting the initiative. “There’s virtually no evidence to suggest that that will happen.”

Louis Cassis, president of Wine & Spirits Wholesalers, declined to comment on its campaign contribution. Beer Distributors of Massachusetts President William Kelley Jr. didn’t return a call seeking comment.

Frank Anzalotti, president of the Massachusetts Package Store Association, said his group is remaining neutral.

“We haven’t seen any studies indicating that alcohol sales are going to suffer if this is approved,” he said. “It’s really not a concern of ours.”

To be sure, money raised by opponents pales in comparison to the dollars collected by supporters of legalized marijuana.

As of Oct. 1, opponents had collected $634,048, according to campaign disclosures, while the committee pushing for legalization had raised more than $3.6 million.

A sizable chunk of supporters’ money comes from out of state, including $2.1 million from New Approach PAC, a Washington, D.C., group with ties to billionaire philanthropist and legalization advocate Peter Lewis.

Nick Bayer, campaign manager for Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, noted opponents represent a “coalition of parents, doctors, addiction advocates, and a wide range of industries who believe Question 4 will harm our families and communities.”

“That’s a direct contrast to the Yes on 4 campaign that is funded with 96 percent of their contributions from out of state — including hundreds of thousands of dollars from the manufacturers of dangerous pot edibles that will make millions if it passes,” he said.

Bayer didn’t mention the alcohol industry, which hasn’t joined the opponents’ coalition.

Political observers say the alcohol industry wouldn’t be spending money if it was unconcerned.

“If you’re putting money into a campaign, you’re not staying neutral,” said Joshua Dyck, a political scientist at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

“Most of the money in advertising on these ballot measures does not come from citizen groups, it comes from people and groups with money who have a vested interest in the outcome,” he said. “If you follow the money, you know who thinks they’re going to benefit or be harmed by the passage of a ballot initiative.”

Conversely, groups such as Smart Approaches to Marijuana fear recreational pot will become the next Big Tobacco, with an industry trying to hook youth on the product. They note the millions of dollars being spent by a growing marijuana industry on the Massachusetts referendum.

“There is big money in marijuana prohibition,” the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington, D.C.-based research group, reported in a recent series on marijuana lobbying efforts.

The group highlighted who funds legislation to keep the drug illegal including law enforcement unions, as well as the alcohol and pharmaceutical industries. Pro-marijuana groups are the biggest contributors in support of such questions.

Massachusetts is one of five states — along with Maine, California, Arizona and Nevada — with a ballot initiative this year that could legalize recreational use of marijuana. Four others have legalized its recreational use: Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon.

Beyond the issue of losing market share, the alcohol industry clearly wants to subject retail pot sales — if approved by voters — to the same rules limiting the beer, wine and spirits trade.

Anzalotti’s group, the Package Store Association, produced an information sheet highlighting regulatory issues that could arise from marijuana legalization. It suggested the need for tough rules on how and when it can be sold, and a limit on the number of retail pot shops.

“The point we’re trying to drive home is that it has to be done in a way that tightens the loopholes, so we don’t have issues coming up later,” he said. “We’ve been around since the end of Prohibition, so we have some experience dealing with regulations.”

His group also points out what it calls inaccuracies and misleading claims made by legalization supporters that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol.

“There’s no evidence that one is better or worse than the other,” Anzalotti said. “In fact, when consumed in moderation, alcohol has health benefits.”

Evans disagrees and touts what he considers to be the public health benefit of diminished alcohol sales. “Even a small reduction would pay huge dividends,” he said.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency LLC.