Washington Sends A Harsh Message on Alcohol Regulation
“The vote in Washington state should send a clear message to lawmakers in the nation’s capitol… when given the choice, people do not want to see alcohol deregulated."
This was the teaching of Craig Wolf, president of the Wine & Spirit Wholesalers of America (WSWA), which opposed the 2010 ballot initiative. Despite the fact that Mr. Wolf confuses "deregulation" with reform, many read his political analysis, nodded their heads and were pleased that the voters of Washington State didn't choose to take the wheels off the wagon of a system for alcohol distribution the Seattle Times called "Alcohol Socialism". They breathed a sigh of relief and went about their way.
Yesterday, Washington voters reconsidered the question. On second thought they decided to take the wheels off the wagon and voted to overwhelmingly pass Initiative 1183, which will result in the state of Washington no longer being in the business of selling spirits.
I wonder if this should send a clear message to lawmakers in Washington again that when given the choice, people want to see reform to America's alcohol regulatory systems?
I suspect the WSWA won't come to this conclusion. Instead, I suspect they'll conclude that the $8 million they spent trying trying to defeat Initiative 1183 wasn't money well spent. I suspect they'll conclude all they needed to defeat Initiative 1183 was a few more television ads claiming that the children of Washington State will die in fiery car crash after fiery car crash if Costco is able to sell Jack Daniels and aged Scotch.
More importantly I suspect the passage of Initiative 1183 in Washington is going to be considered quite carefully by folks in Pennsylvania and Virginia where other archaic and anti-consumer alcohol control systems need severe reform. This won't make the WSWA or individual wholesalers very happy.
In fact, the notion that more competitive and pro-consumer models of alcohol distribution might appeal to citizens probably scares the shit out of wholesalers. They aren't in the business of having to compete in a fair, well regulation, consumer-centric marketplace. They are in the business of calling such things "deregulation" and throwing around their enormous government subsidized profits in order to inhibit the development of such a marketplace.
Congratulations, then, to the people of Washington. They made the right choice and, apparently, have sent a clear message to lawmakers all across the country and in the nation's capital: Americans will support reform to America's alcohol control policy in the form of more consumer friendly systems.