County liquor control makes sense -- Gazette.Net


The Jan. 30 Gazette editorial [“Montgomery needs to get out of the liquor business”] got it completely and absolutely wrong — although, ironically, for well-intentioned reasons.

The Gazette claims that public health would improve by deregulating alcohol, when the exact opposite is true.

Montgomery County joins 17 states (and three other Maryland counties) in operating as a “control jurisdiction” — that is, controlling the sale and distribution of beverage alcohol more closely than is found in “license” jurisdictions. Over 25 percent of the U.S. population lives in these jurisdictions.

Control systems exist precisely and primarily to contribute to the quality of life of our communities by enhancing the public health and safety. The social costs associated with the abuse and misuse of alcohol are lower in control jurisdictions, such as Montgomery County, than in license jurisdictions.

The fact that the net profits resulting from the operation of the system — $23 million this year — are contributed directly into the county general fund, where they support public services, is simply an additional benefit to our residents.

A mountain of credible, scientifically based, peer-reviewed, published research — consistently and over a long period of time — confirm these health findings.

The federal Centers for Disease Control reviewed the compelling body of evidence and validated these facts in March 2012. The CDC Community Guide states: “The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends against the further privatization of alcohol sales in settings with current government control of retail sales. This finding is based on strong evidence that privatization results in increased per capita alcohol consumption … excessive consumption and related harms.”

The CDC further described the Montgomery County control system model as an “effective strategy to prevent or reduce excessive consumption which is one of the leading causes of preventable death and disability.”

Deregulating alcohol would degrade the health and safety of Montgomery County residents, not enhance it. The Gazette position, sadly, is 180 degrees from the facts.

George F. Griffin, Rockville

The writer is director of Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control.