In the Doghouse

Utah Bill: State Alcohol Control Commissioners Must Drink

UTAHbillMarch 6, 2012

In a ridiculous example of the extent to which legislators will go to deregulate state alcohol control, Utah Representative Brian Doughty (D-Salt Lake City) has introduced a bill mandating that at least two of the five Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission members drink alcohol at least once a month. Since when are government regulators required to consume or use the product they’re regulating? (Cigarettes? Lottery tickets? Prescription drugs?) They aren't, and shouldn't be--with good reasons.

As stated by the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, “the purpose of alcohol control in Utah is to make liquor available to those adults who choose to drink responsibly, but not to promote the sale of liquor. By keeping liquor out of the private marketplace, no economic incentives are created to maximize sales, open more liquor stores or sell to underage persons.” Utah's liquor laws, such as correctly classifying youth-marketed alcopops as distilled spirits, serve to protect public health. It is sound policy that does not need to be"fixed." 

Promoting so-called “progressive” liquor laws in Utah has been one of Doughty's causes since he was elected. This is part of a long-term strategy to hand over Utah’s state liquor control to private enterprise, and Utah’s public health, safety, and revenue stream along with it. Privatization proponents such as Doughty argue that it will benefit drinkers by improving the price and availability of alcohol. But if they had the well-being of the state and its residents in mind, they would be thinking about the increased harm and societal costs that come with decreased state control of alcohol.

Rep. Doughty has it wrong: people aren't being regulated, a potentially dangerous product is. Regulators don't have to drink alcohol in order to understand the harmful effects it can have on society, and effective policies to reduce its harm.