States Stubbornly Slow To Fix Antiquated Alcohol Laws
Last week’s election results contained many surprises, including the failure of the much-ballyhooed “red wave.” Another surprising result was the unexpected difficulty that alcohol-related ballot initiatives ran into in Colorado.
Coloradans had three different alcohol ballot initiatives to choose from on their ballots this year. The topics they covered ran the gamut from increasing the number of liquor stores a single owner could operate, to allowing wine to be sold in grocery stores, to authorizing third-party on-demand delivery services to deliver alcohol in the state, to making permanent the state’s pandemic-era to-go cocktail rules. Although polls on these issues had not been previously conducted in Colorado specifically, such reforms enjoy widespread popularity among voters nationwide.
None of the results have been officially certified yet, but with more than 95 percent of votes reported, only one of the three initiatives seems to have passed—the wine-in-grocery-stores initiative—and only by less than a percentage point. Expanding liquor licenses went down 62 percent to 38 percent, while third-party alcohol delivery and making to-go drinks permanent suffered a closer defeat with 51.3 percent opposed.
Given Colorado’s relatively open attitude toward cannabis—consumers can order it directly to their homes via third-party delivery services—the resistance these reforms faced raised eyebrows. In an ironic twist, state voters even approved decriminalizing psychedelic mushrooms in a separate ballot measure this year.
Furthermore, all three initiatives had substantial financial backing. All told, the campaigns supporting these initiatives raised $13 million each, placing them in the top 10 most expensive ballot fights this election. What, then, accounted for the mixed results?
One part of the explanation surely lies in the fact that Coloradans likely suffered from a bit of ballot fatigue. When they went into the voting booth, their ballots included two federal elections, several state-level elections, and 11 ballot initiatives, plus other various elections.
But primarily, the difficulty these initiatives faced have to do with the way alcohol laws have evolved in America over the last 100 years. After Prohibition was repealed in 1933, pro-temperance sentiment did not simply die away overnight. Instead, anti-alcohol forces focused their efforts on implementing restrictive alcohol laws at the state and local levels.
States either had the government take control of all alcohol sales or implemented a three-tier system that required producers of alco
Article from Reason.com