States have no business selling booze -
Oregon has embarked on an experiment to let large supermarkets in five cities sell hard liquor. If it goes well, Washington should consider a similar plan.

By the Editorial Board of the Union-Bulletin

May 5, 2004

In Oregon, as well as Washington, the state government promotes the sale of liquor and oversees programs to curb the use of alcohol.

What kind of sense does it make to have a government addicted to the cash flow from alcohol sales while spending millions of dollars to curb alcohol abuse and drunken driving?

Oregon sells hard liquor through its state-sanctioned stores. In Washington, the state actually owns the stores. Some legislators, as well as other state officials, concede the dual role is hypocritical.

It's also profitable. Very profitable. And the Pacific Northwest states can't wean themselves from the money.

But Oregon is taking another run at getting out of the marketing end of the business. The state is embarking on a two-year experiment to allow whiskey, vodka and other booze to be sold in large supermarkets in five cities. Grocery stores in tiny communities already sell liquor because they are too small for a state store.

The goal of all this isn't necessarily to get the state out of the liquor business, but to maximize profits.

Nevertheless, lawmakers ought to look at the experiment as a way to end (or, at least, curb) the hypocrisy.

Let the private sector sell booze, tax it and then the state can concentrate on policing the sales and the use of alcohol. State programs to curb alcohol abuse will also have more validity.

If selling hard liquor in large supermarkets can be done without creating any major problems, Washington ought to consider a similar plan so it can get out of the booze business.



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