As marijuana advocates constantly remind us, B.C. has an alcohol problem, not a pot problem. I think our province has a problem with both, but I agree over-the-top drinking is invariably more damaging.
Look no further than the mayhem that booze caused during the 2011 Stanley Cup riot. Or consider that, according to Richmond-Steveston MLA John Yap, 30 per cent of those showing up at B.C. hospital emergency departments at night report they've recently consumed alcohol.
I do think, though, we've made huge strides in the last 30 years to curb the alcohol-fuelled carnage on B.C. roads. We've also changed the cavalier attitude people used to have toward drinking and driving, with some young motorists considering it cool to have "a prang" (a crash) and live to tell the tale.
That said, I don't think the long-term solution to B.C.'s booze problem is to continue having Big Brother government monopolize, manipulate and otherwise distort the sale of beer, wine and liquor with a Byzantine set of rules.
I think instead we should follow the lead of Montreal and other places where beer and wine are sold in grocery stores and corner stores, and where there seems to be a much more mature attitude toward social drinking.
Besides, as Victoria political consultant Michael Geoghegan points out, B.C. has one of the highest taxes/markups on alcohol in the world.
"I think that any grocery store should be able to sell wine, and I think that any convenience store should be able to sell beer and wine. I think that hard liquor should be reserved for private liquor stores, and I think that government liquor stores should be gradually phased out," Geoghegan said.
"But most of all, the markup on beer, wine and spirits should be brought down to a level that is more reasonable than 113 per cent."
Vancouver neuropsychologist Rosemary Vernon Wilkinson agrees with allowing alcohol sales in grocery stores: "This is the norm throughout most of the U.S. It is the norm throughout Europe ... it is simply convenient."
Wilkinson and Geoghegan were responding to a call for web input from Yap, whom the Christy Clark government has put in charge of the official public discussion on liquor-policy reform that started last week (gov.bc.ca/liquorpolicyreview).
Yap noted the issue is not as simple as it seems, and is looking for a "made-in-B.C." approach.
But I think he should look at Washington state, one of the first two states to make recreational marijuana legal. A year or so ago, it privatized its liquor sales, allowing booze to be sold in big box, grocery and other retail stores ... without any apparent increase in drunk driving. Oregon, too, looks set for a similar privatization initiative.
"This isn't 1933 any more and people want the convenience of liquor being in the grocery store," said Northwest Grocery Association president Joe Gilliam.
No, we're not in the Prohibition era. And if the government treats us like adults, the chances are greater we'll behave like them — especially when it comes alcohol or pot use.
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