By editorial board • 

Liquor privatization seems a solution in search of problem

Oregon has been in the retail liquor business for 80 years — operations likely jeopardized by an upcoming initiative vote.

While there is plenty to nitpick about Oregon’s system of handling distilled spirits, the proposal to privatize liquor sales and distribution seems like a solution in search of a problem.

A vote to end Oregon’s control over liquor is all but guaranteed, as the Northwest Grocery Association is expected to qualify one of five similar initiatives it submitted for the November 2014 ballot.

Before voters get a chance to weigh in, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission will attempt to modernize itself in a hurry, trying to get in front of any initiative vote that would disband its monopoly on liquor sales in the state. The OLCC is expected to introduce legislation allowing grocers to sell distilled spirits while keeping the state’s wholesale and distribution system intact. 

Disbanding OLCC’s reign would be done in the name of consumer convenience, proponents argue, and the belief that Oregon’s system is an outdated relic of Prohibition times.

Opponents argue giving control to corporate grocers would squeeze out the mom-and-pop shops and create more challenges for the state’s growing micro-distillery industry. 

In Washington, state voters opted in 2011 to privatize its liquor industry, with mixed results. Prices skyrocketed because of new state taxes, and the state has actually received more money from liquor sales. Arrests and collisions related to driving under the influence were down last year, but shoplifting of spirits by organized crime rings has become an issue. 

To the south, California’s unrestricted market has led to cheaper liquor prices. 

Ken Skinner, contract agent for McMinnville’s lone liquor store, one of 242 retail outlets in the state, told the News-Register he could “compete with the big boys” if the liquor market does become unrestricted. He said, however, he doesn’t expect the privatization movement to win. 

We will hear convincing cases from both sides of this debate. But there doesn’t seem to be enough wrong with the current system to implement wholesale changes, especially without knowing exactly what the fallout would be. The current system may be slightly inconvenient, perhaps even more expensive for consumers, but that actually is fine by us.

Either way, we recommend careful study of any privatization law sent to voters. Privatizing liquor based on theory alone could become a major loss for Oregon. 




The argument endorsing the state's continuing monopoly on liquor because that's the way things always have been done is provincial and certainly anti-progressive. We are a laughingstock to outsiders. Just another Blue Law. Isn't it time to grow up?


Haven't seen any examples of being a laughingstock to outsiders and I really don't see it being anti-progressive. While it may be "inconvenient" at certain times, I see the current system as needing some modernization or tweaking, but I certainly don't want see hard liquor in every store either.

"shoplifting of spirits by organized crime rings has become an issue."
"One would think losing money would be reason enough for stores to protect their liquor bottles from thieves.
But police say they have seen shoplifting reports pile up since voters privatized Washington liquor sales in 2011. In response, state government may force problem stores to shape up or risk losing their licenses."
"Alcohol use by students on school property has gone up, and it’s not beer,” the prosecutor said."
"Liquor theft soars in Washington after privatization, but remains low in Oregon
A sudden, dramatic rise in liquor thefts in Washington could be seen as collateral damage from the state's recent move to privatization".

We don't need the additional problems.....................................


We don't need the additional government to save us from ourselves.


So, after 83 years, why create the extra government over site, taxing authorities and extra - additional regulations, extra licensing capacity as well as the extra people to enforce those regulations on a vastly expanded retail outlet by privatizing liquor? Not to mention all the "poor misguided souls", afflicted with a "disease", as well as the youth out for the thrills, who now see the open and accessible grocery and convenience store shelves as easy targets for 5 fingered discounts.
Sometimes, the way things are really isn't all that bad when the totality of the alternatives are considered.

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