A Modest Proposal: Let’s Regulate Alcohol Like Marijuana

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Amendment 64 was Colorado’s “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol” initiative, which passed with 55% of the vote in 2012, getting 60,038 more votes than Obama. Part of the measure reads “effectively regulating cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol.”

However, seven months into it, Regulating Marijuana Like Alcohol has been anything but like regulating marijuana like alcohol.

Here’s what it would look like in Colorado today if instead, Alcohol were regulated like recreational Marijuana:

No Bars or Taverns or Drinking in Restaurants. The biggest change to the Alcohol landscape will be the total lack of someplace to go and drink. Bars and Taverns are now completely illegal, as is drinking in a restaurant, per the Denver PD. Not even hotel rooms (private rules), private unadvertised members-only clubs, VFW, or Elks Lodges.

Tax Rate. Hold on to your hat. Currently, the Colorado Liquor Excise Tax is $0.045 per six-pack, but the Retail Marijuana State Sales Tax is 10%, plus a 15% Retail Marijuana Excise Tax, which goes to Colorado public school construction. So that $9.00 six-pack is now $11.25!

No Liquor Stores Within 1,000 Feet. The Cole Memo said all marijuana operations must be at least 1,000 feet from any school, park, or church. That means Oscar Blues and Lumber Liquors in Lyons has to close, as does Mountain Sun in Boulder. And none can open pretty much anywhere in downtown Lyons. No more wine in church, back to the grape juice again.

Hours. It’s 7:30pm. Bummer, all the liquor stores are closed. Only open 11 to 7. Go home and burn one instead.

Drunk Last Night = DUI Tomorrow. Did you get hammered last night? Three days later you could still get a DUI. Regardless of lack of impairment.

Drink 3 Weeks Ago = Fail Drug Test. Have to pee in a cup for a job or a PO? If you drank in the last 3 weeks, you’re gonna fail the drug test. Zero tolerance and all.

Can’t Buy Alcohol in Many Cities and Counties. There are entire counties, cities, and towns where you can’t buy any Alcohol. Period. Dry as a bone. No Alcohol of any kind in grocery stores. And no liquor stores at all, so deal with it.

No Drinking in Public. Used to drinking in a park? On a patio on Pearl St Mall? At the Boulder Creek Fest? CU football games? Not any more.

Child-resistant Containers. All Alcohol must be in a child-resistant package. Have you ever tried to open a child-resistant container after 5 beers?

No Delivery. No more party delivery by Liquor Mart. What will frat houses do?

Maximum Purchase Size. Having a party? Plan on making many trips to the liquor store instead of one. Maximum purchase size is 2 cases.

Taking Alcohol to Another State. It’s a felony to buy Alcohol in Colorado and take it to any other state. And try not to leave it in the rental car when you return it. And if you travel out of state, expect to illegally get pulled over by cops looking for Colorado Alcohol.

Only In-state Suppliers. The liquor store has to make 70% of what they sell. Somewhere, somehow. That means 70% of all the beer, wine, and spirits they sell. No state-wide brands, no more Leopold Brothers or Stranahan’s. And the other 30% has to be in-state as well.

No Alcohol in Your Suitcase. It’s illegal to have your bottle of Alcohol anywhere on DIA property. Including your suitcase. If confiscated, you could be detained. There are “Amnesty Boxes” for you to put your bottle in at the airport.

Or Anywhere in Any Airport. Every airport in the state is off-limits to Alcohol. No drinking in the airport before the flight, no buying booze at the duty-free shop, no drinking at all until they serve you at 30,000 feet.

CCTV. Smile! You’re on camera. 100% of the store must be visible on camera, which is fed in realtime to the state liquor board.

No QA or Tests Required. No tests are required on the Alcohol sold in liquor stores. Not ABV, not microbiological, not adulterants or contaminants, not nothin’.

Only Two Customers. After you waited 15 minutes to get in, you see why: no more than 2 customers can be in the store at a time. Take a number and get in line.

ID to Enter Regardless of Age. Are you clearly north of 90? Bring your ID anyway, since 100% of liquor store patrons are carded. Period.

No More Loyalty and Rewards. All those loyalty and rewards programs are out the window.

Spirits In Small Quantities. Spirits only come in pint bottles, no more quarts, fifths, or magnums. On the plus side, you can buy the same quantity of spirits that you can of beer, so you can buy two cases of pint bottles of vodka. A quirk in the law.

Unknown ABV. Want to know how much Alcohol is in that bottle? Then you’ll have to guess, because there is no requirement to tell you.

Threat to Ban Spirits. From time to time the state will threaten to ban spirits like vodka, whiskey, and tequila.

Employees. The guy waiting on you has been fingerprinted, has had a background check done, and state-mandated training. Just to get minimum wage selling you a sixer.

Ownership. Good to know, only Colorado residents for one year can own a liquor store. Plus the mandatory fingerprints and background check. And sometimes an investigation. All for a liquor store.

Armed Regulators. The guy from the state who checks on the store? He’s armed and has a badge.

Health Inspections. Although they don’t prepare food, the local Health Department will still inspect liquor stores, just as if they were a restaurant.

No Credit Cards Because No Banks. Forgot cash, so you need to use your card? Too bad. Since they can’t use banks, they can’t take credit cards.

No IRS Deductions. So it’s April 15 and the liquor store owner wants to deduct costs of doing business, like every other business in America. Except the IRS will not allow even one single deduction! Not for labor, not for rent, not for insurance, not for anything. And since you have no bank account, you have to pay your payroll and income taxes in cash, which is another 10% penalty.

SBA. You want to apply for an SBA loan for your liquor store? Don’t bother, they will reject it instantly. Same with commercial banks. Your liquor store is not considered legal enough for them.

3 Years to Get License. So despite all this you still want to open a liquor store? Expect to open and then wait 3 years to finally get your state license, operating on a conditional one the whole time.

This is the reality of regulating Alcohol like Marijuana. It’s inherently unfair to Marijuana buyers and vendors, and contrary to the letter and the spirit of Amendment 64.

Beer drinkers should count their blessings.


Photo Credit: Geralt under public domain via Pixabay