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Government Meddles in Our Drinking Enjoyment

By Michael Schiaparelli · June 16th, 2010 · Fermentations
America’s puritanical streak runs red hot regarding alcohol. That’s why the drinking age was raised to 21, legally acceptable blood alcohol levels are continually lowered and “sin taxes” on liquor are skyrocketing.

Many of these initiatives are intended to keep “kids” (i.e., voting-age consumers between 18 and 21) safe from that ol’ demon liquor — including two newer efforts, one that uses peer pressure to curb your parental rights, while the other does nothing but protect the profits of liquor wholesalers.

Now, when I was a kid, we used to party at Bill Ranucci’s house. His parents were usually upstairs while we hung in the basement drinking Molson and listening to The Ramones.

These were good times because responsible adults checked on us regularly and made sure we got home safe if we couldn’t make it on our own. Plenty of other kids didn’t have a safe haven like that and they seemed to get into much more trouble — and had a rougher time learning to drink responsibly.

In this light, the Drug-Free Action Alliance’s ongoing “Parents Who Host Lose the Most” campaign that ostracizes Ohioans who allow underage drinking in their homes seems misguided.

At best, it’s part-and-parcel with conservative efforts to push abstinence-only education over programs that teach safe sex, which even Bristol Palin now readily admits is “not realistic at all.”

The same, of course, is true for alcohol. It’s unrealistic to think kids won’t drink, so we need to teach them to do so responsibly. In fact, state law recognizes the wisdom of this approach and allows you to serve your own underage child in your home or a restaurant. You can even serve their underage friends, as long as a parent or guardian is present and gives permission.

Conscientious adults who model and instill a healthy attitude about consumption don’t deserve to “lose the most.” Instead, they should be commended.

At the same time, Congress (always “wise stewards” of our national morals) is working on anti-consumer legislation that restricts consumer choice by prohibiting direct interstate wine shipments.

Its supporters claim that HR 5034, the Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness (“CARE,” get it?) Act, is necessary to keep alcohol out of the hands of underage drinkers. Because at this moment kids all across America are supposedly plotting to procure expensive, limited-production Willamette Valley Pinot Noir to chug by the railroad tracks before going to prom.

In fact, this sop to corporate interests serves no purpose but to enrich the industry’s middlemen and deny adult consumers the widest possible selection and best price on their purchases. So if you’ve ever ordered a bottle of wine from an out-of-state winery or retailer, urge your representatives in Washington to vote against this ill-conceived legislation.

Otherwise, it’s just another nail in the coffin of your freedom to drink the alcoholic beverage of your choice. And consumers, once again, lose the most.




06.18.2010 at 12:15 Reply
The bill H.R. 5034 was introduced to protect the states, all of whom are strapped for cash (and let’s not forget, funded by taxpayer money). Right now, states continue to have to expend resources defending their alcohol laws against lawsuits brought by those with economic interests, like big retailers, suppliers, etc. The bill merely reiterates the existing rights of states to make their own laws regarding alcohol trade and sales. The text of the bill makes it pretty clear that it doesn’t touch existing state laws on direct shipping. I enjoy wine as much as the next person, but the claim that the legislation would change state laws that allow direct shipping just isn’t accurate. Read the bill at: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.R.5034: Ellen Maineville,OH


06.22.2010 at 10:23
Ellen - Thanks for writing. Obviously, I disagree about the effect “CARE” would have on direct shipping because it makes state laws regarding wine and beer virtually unchallengeable in court. Of course, I understand that state AGs hate having to defend 70 years of anti-competitive legislation in court following the Supreme Court’s 2005 Granholm decision that recognized the Commerce Clause taking precedence over the 21st Amendment. But rather than seek a legislative fix that effectively reverses that decision so states can retain those protectionist, anti-consumer laws, I think they should just repeal those state laws and let competition reign and the marketplace decide. The three-tier system is an anachronism, and, while distributors serve a useful purpose in the market (especially in providing information to restaurateurs and retail shop buyers), the system needs to change. HR 5034, however, is exactly the wrong kind of change.