IJMW: Privatizing the ABC

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Every five or 10 years the state legislature looks at the possibility of demolishing North Carolina’s antiquated attitude towards alcohol, which they once used to call “demon rum” around these parts when they weren’t shuttling illegal loads of it around the state in souped-up cars.

Remember, North Carolina had statewide prohibition a full 12 years before the rest of the nation — enacted in 1908 — and didn’t ratify the 21st Amendment that repealed it until four years after its passage.

That year, 1937, the state formed the Alcohol Beverage Control system, effectively putting the state in control of the alcohol business — not exactly seizing the means of production, but certainly the sale and distribution of the product.

This is why an ordinary citizen can go into an ABC store and pay less for a bottle of scotch than a bar owner who orders it by the case.

There are industries in which the state should maintain a controlling interest: public transportation, education, prisons, law enforcement, to name a few. But no state — particularly North Carolina, which in 100 years has failed to accurately grasp the nature of the booze business — should hold a monopoly on alcohol sales.

We need to privatize alcohol sales in North Carolina, not just because private industry can do it better, faster and cheaper. And not just because the state should never have been involved to this degree in the first place.

We should also consider the coming legalization of cannabis, the law of the land in 29 states and the District of Columbia, now creeping across the Atlantic states.

It’s coming to North Carolina sooner or later, and our ABC Board, under whose purview this would currently fall, is not up to the task.