It’s time that our state government removed itself from the liquor business. Selling liquor to the citizenry isn’t an appropriate function of government.

Regulating how it is sold, taxing those sales and setting penalties for violators, however, is indeed government’s job.

Initiative 1183 does a better job than earlier initiatives in spelling out what the government’s role should be. It sets limits that will prevent every corner convenience store from selling hard liquor (businesses generally need 10,000 fully enclosed square feet to qualify). That cuts out the mini-marts that so many people worried about in the last election.

And for those who still worry, the measure doubles the penalties for anyone violating the rules on sales and sets up a voluntary “responsible vendor program” aimed at preventing sales to minors. And sales will actually bring in extra revenue for the state.

Just because the scotch and vodka aren’t government-issue doesn’t mean children will be drinking in the streets. Some kids will do that anyway — those same youngsters who find alcohol now and who can get their hands on illegal drugs.

Government can and should create disincentives to selling spirits to minors. Whether it’s liquor, cigarettes or candy bars, the state shouldn’t be in any kind of retail business — that is not its function. Government’s role is regulatory, not profit-based.

Follow the example of most states and put the teeth in the laws that manage potential problems. Follow through with actual penalties and firm punishments.

The only disappointment is that such a measure had to come through an initiative backed by corporations (Costco is the main sponsor) that want to profit from the change. There’s nothing wrong with Costco wanting it that way. This is a capitalistic society. But the fact that our legislators didn’t take care of it on their own initiative is disappointing.

Instead, the public gets caught in a corporate vs. wholesaler turf war, which is what all those television ads are really about.

Put an end to it. There are plenty of ways to protect society’s children. Having your government serve you a cocktail isn’t one of them.

Editorials reflect the consensus opinion of Publisher Heather Hernandez and Editor Colette Weeks. Signed columns reflect the author’s viewpoint.


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