On Nov. 2, voters in Washington state will decide on one of this election year’s hot topics.
People will vote on Initiative 1100 where they are to choose yes to privatize liquor or no to maintain the Washington State Liquor Control Board to continue the operation and distribution of spirits in the state.
“There’s something at stake for everyone somewhere in this election cycle, and voting is absolutely crucial to ensure that your voice is heard,” ASPCP President Lauren Adler wrote in a recent e-mail.
The concise description of the proposed initiative: “This measure would close state liquor stores; authorize sale, distribution, and importation of spirits by private parties; and repeal certain requirements that govern the business operations of beer and wine distributers and producers.”
What is being proposed is taking the government’s control of the distribution of spirits and allowing private businesses, such as Costco Wholesale, to distribute liquor.
The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 created a federal age limit where the minimum drinking age became 21.
Even though Pierce College has a large student body under the drinking age, everyone at the college will be affected in some way or another by this proposal.
The opponents to I-1100 say there will be a 400 percent increase in sales to minors.
Washington currently stands at 94 percent compliance with no sales to minors whereas states that have privatized liquor stand at 75 percent compliance.
Student Collin Stone, 18, believes employees working for private businesses will potentially not be able to decipher who is of age and the increased availability of liquor can cause a greater chance of alcoholism.
This statement speaks to the statistics and is a concern for the state to help maintain public safety regarding alcohol consumption by minors.
Those against I-1100 don’t mention is that beer and wine currently are distributed by private parties and that the 94 percent compliance includes the sale of beer and wine.
The initiative would allow a grocery store to sell all alcohol.
A nursing student who moved from California, which has privatized liquor, said it was more of a good thing because of the availability. It would be similar as beer and wine in a grocery store here and employees would still need to check someone’s identification.
The proponents argue that just because liquor will be more accessible does not mean that there will be a decrease in compliance to the federal distribution laws.
While potential increase in sales to minors is a concern, the proponents to I-1100 argue that the necessary step in preventing underage drinking is to increase the state’s drug and alcohol education.
Currently, the money and taxes made from the distribution of alcohol is used on social programs in Washington.
These social programs include drug and alcohol education and rehabilitation clinics. The proponents say that not enough money is used on educating minors about the risks of underage drinking, while the majority of the money is spent on rehabilitation programs that deal with drug and alcohol addictions.
Supporters of I-1100 state say that releasing the Liquor Control Board from its burden of distributing liquor will allow them to better enforce the licensing laws and education of underage drinking.
“The government should not be selling and marketing (liquor). The private sector is better suited to control liquor,” another student said.
Those for I-1100 often say that Washington should not be providing a service that supports an addiction—that the money made by sales becomes a cyclical process when the majority of it is going to rehabilitation programs that deal with the problem far too late.
What I-1100 generally boils down to is how jobs will be affected due to the outcome of passing the bill. Thousands of jobs are at risk. Advocates bring forth the point that Washington state’s distribution warehouse will be sold to create money for the state.
Also, private parties can purchase the current liquor stores and reduce the job loss significantly.
“I don’t think it will cost as many jobs as people say,” he said. “By (privatizing) liquor, more stores can open up instead of being controlled as they are.” Currently there are roughly 340 stores that distribute spirits in Washington—the estimate number of stores if passed would skyrocket to more than 3,000.
Those who argue against the initiative are not talking about liquor store employees only but rather the domino effect created by losing the influx of money from sales.
The money goes to schools, health care, rehabilitation services, and education programs. The opponent’s further say Washington would lose $200 million in revenue if passed. Simply adding more stores does not help the state recover the potential loss in funds and jobs.
“Government is not a spectator sport, and I really encourage everybody to become educated with the issues and the candidates and then vote early and often,” Alder said. “Stand up for who and what you believe in, and be proud to be an engaged citizen.”
For more information, visit the Pierce County Auditor’s website at www.co.pierce.wa.us.
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