Dear Washington State voters:
Do you drink wine, beer or liquor?
If so, you should vote "Yes" on initiative I-1100.
There's a lot of beer-distributor money being spread around Washington to try to confuse you. There's a competing initiative, I-1105, that was written by Washington Beer and Wine Wholesalers to protect their monopoly. And there's a lot of sanctimonious blather on the airwaves right now about health and alcoholism and minors drinking.
You know who's funding that blather? Beer and wine wholesalers. They don't really want Washington residents to stop drinking, or to drink less. What they want is to ensure that they keep getting a 30% cut.
It's hard to blame any company for trying to protect its business model, even if that model is an outdated government-supported monopoly. What gets under my skin is outright lying about intentions. If wholesalers want people to drink less for public-safety reasons, they don't need voters' support: They can simply stop selling beer and wine.
Costco has been the main supporter of I-1100, and it's not doing so out of public interest either. Costco wants to buy wine without a middleman so it can offer lower prices that encourage people to join.
But unless you're one of the 33% of American adults who don't drink, your interests align with Costco's.
Why should you want to pay higher prices for wine, beer and spirits? You could argue that there's some societal benefit in doing so if the premium you're currently paying over prices elsewhere in the country went to the state. That's an ongoing argument in Pennsylvania.
But in fact, that huge percentage you're now paying to beer distributors is going into corporate coffers. And when it is spent on government, it's not used on schools: it's given to your public officials in an open (and often successful) attempt to influence them.
Moreover, Washington is a sophisticated state in just about every way: urban planning, transit issues, and most political debates. And the quality of top Washington wines is second to none.
But your state-run system of liquor shops is an anachronism. It's the kind of nanny-state government expected in places where most citizens aren't well-educated. At least 36 American states believe private businesses, and their employees, are capable of selling liquor responsibly. Do you believe Washingtonians are incapable of doing so?
Don't let money-grubbing beer distributors confuse the issue.
If you don't drink alcohol, at all, go ahead and vote against I-1100. Keep Washington on the level of fellow control states (and intellectual capitals) like Alabama, Idaho, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming.
If you drink alcohol, remember what happened when a nation of voters let sanctimonious arguments get the better of them 100 years ago. Drinkers voted for Prohibition; it couldn't have passed without them.
Vote your own interests. Don't stand with the 33% who teetotal and see your state as Alabama or Utah. Have some pride and confidence in your state.
Vote "yes" on I-1100.
W. Blake Gray
ADDENDUM: Sean Sullivan has done an excellent job of breaking down the bill's actual impacts. His piece, which does not urge a vote one way or the other, is better than mine.
(PS: Drink more Washington wine! Seven Hills, Hedges, Pacific Rim and Chateau Ste Michelle are some of my favorites. But that's a topic for another day.)