Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Why funding for the enforcement of regulations is essential

Former Michigan Liquor Control Commissioner and former Michigan House of Representatives Floor Leader Pat Gagliardi has authored a new report, “The Need for State Alcohol Regulatory Funding: Fighting Deregulation by Defunding,” made possible by a grant from the Center for Alcohol Policy“The fervor to cut budgets and anti-regulatory sentiment can lead to ill-considered changes in alcohol policy,” the report notes.  “There is a real danger that state alcohol control will be reduced to the point of ineffectiveness by overburdening the regulatory system that, to date, has been successful and has enjoyed overwhelming public support."

The report notes that the number of Washington State Liquor Control Board agents dropped from 86 in 2003 to 55 in 2012.  The Washington State budget allocation for alcohol control decreased from $15.5million in 2007 to $10.9million in 2011.  It goes on to discuss the changes in our state's alcohol control system, including a quote from former WASAVP president Jim Cooper.

"With the passage of Initiative 1183, the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) will cease state liquor store and liquor distribution operations . . . The initiative permits retailers to act as their own distributors for wine and spirits and circumvents the three-tier system that has long grown the industry.  In opposing the initiative, Jim Cooper, president of the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention argued:

'If we're going to destroy our current system, we need to understand what will replace it.  I-1183 raises more questions than answers.  What we do know is this: at least 1,400 stores will be allowed to sell liquor under I-1183, without a penny for more liquor compliance officers.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recommended against liquor privatization because it caused a sharp increase in alcohol consumption and problem drinking.  Our state stores have one of the best enforcement rates in the country when it comes to checking identification.  According to the Liquor Control Board compliance checks, grocery stores sell to minors who try to buy alcohol one time out of four attempts.  Studies show teens don't drink for the taste, they drink for the buzz.  And if they can get their hands on the hard stuff, they will."

The report goes on to say:

"The alcohol industry is motivated primarily by profit and cannot be left to self-regulate in this field.  The problems with alcohol can only be addressed by restricting the availability, accessibility, and marketing of alcohol through enforcement of regulations that apply to all."

"The need for adequate funding is essential for the regulation of alcohol to work.  A fully funded system will strengthen the regulatory framework that supports alcohol policy compliance and enforcement."

"Adequate funding is also essential to avoid other consequences of deregulation that are often overlooked, including money laundering, smuggling, Internet sales to minors, blind pigs (establishments selling alcohol illegally), gang activity, and underground economies, especially in urban areas with private clubs that go unchecked."  

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