Protect Our Communities, the campaign to reject Initiatives 1100 and 1105, which would end the state's monopoly of liquor sales, has started running a TV commercial in constant rotation. The ad's not on YouTube yet so I can't post it, but it depicts of a bunch of kids—underage kids—attempting to buy liquor and getting away with it because, hey, private convenience stores would be less diligent about checking IDs than the state-run stores we have now.
So we glean that Protect Our Communities is against the liquor initiatives because they would encourage underage drinking. If we reject the measures, the little kids couldn't buy alcohol at grocery stores, convenience stores, or anywhere else—right?
No, that's not their intent.
The Protect Our Communities campaign, as we've noted before, isn't a group opposed to the availability of alcohol at these private stores. The latest records from the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission campaign underscore that this effort is bankrolled by the national beer lobby. Since October 1, the Beer Wholesalers Association and the Beer Institute (where the chairman is also the president of Anheuser-Busch) each kicked in another $400,000 to "Protect Our Communities." They've each donated $2.4 million since the campaign began, with millions more in an assist from beer and wine distributors (mostly beer distributors) and some union money from the employees who work in those state liquor stores, to fill the $8.2 million war chest.
This isn't about reducing underage drinking; the campaign is silent on private stores selling the accidental bottle of alcohol to minors—as long as it's their product (beer) and not someone else's product (liquor). How bad would it be if we got the state out of the business? There maybe more noncompliance at the convenience stores, true. But let's compare Washington to another state that has privatized liquor. California has an underage drinking rate of 26.3 percent of teenagers, far below Washington's 31.3 percent rate (despite that state's firm grip on liquor stores), according to SAMHSA. California's binge drinking rates are also much lower.
I'm not here to defend underage drinking (even though almost everybody does it), but here's what needs to be called out about about noncompliance of these stores. The minors getting away with buying alcohol—beer, wine, hard liquor—aren't, like, toddlers drinking Jack Daniels. They're passing for 21 or over. They are overwhelmingly ADULTS in their late teens and 20 years old.
So this isn't about protecting kids—don't be fooled. It's about protecting profits.