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© 2016 Wolfgang Bitterolf
...a blog about the lighter side of wine...

Gifford Pinchot (1865 – 1946) was the Governor of Pennsylvania, serving from 1923 to 1927, and again from 1931 to 1935.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) was created during his tenure in 1933.

It has been 83 years that the citizens of Pennsylvania have endured a state monopoly on alcoholic beverages.



June 15, 2016

The ''Control'' of Alcoholic Beverages

Here we are, one Nation under God, divided by 50 different legislative efforts to ''control'' the selling, shipping and buying of wine and other alcoholic beverages.

There is a lot of money in booze; wineamerica.org states that the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, TTB for short, is the third biggest revenue generator of the federal government bringing in an estimated $23 billion each year; I suspect most of it is from alcohol.

Where there is so much money involved politicians in all states want to get their their hands on some of it, and this is why we probably have 50 different legislations as far as the marketing of alcoholic beverages is concerned. While booze is sold pretty much like any other retail item in most states, and where politicians are happy to collect various levels of taxes on alcoholic beverages, Wikipedia lists eighteen states that still excercise various levels of ''control'' over the sales of alcoholic beverages including two, Pennsylvania and Utah, where you can buy wines and spirits only in state owned stores - a total alcohol monopoly.

To buy their wine the 12.8 million people of Pennsylvania have to make a special stop and go to a ''State Store'' owned by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB).

When we first came to live in PA some 37 years ago you walked up to a counter, told a rather unfriendly clerk what you wanted, and he or she would disappear into the darknes of the shelves and hopefully return with what you had asked for. It was pretty much true to the statement of former Governor Gifford Pinchot when he declared in 1933 that the purpose of the PLCB was to "...discourage the purchase of alcoholic beverages by making it as inconvenient and expensive as possible.'' (Wikipedia.org).

Things have gotten better. Today all State Stores are self serve, there is a reasonable selection of wines, prices are not outrageous as compared to neighboring states, and service is by and large quite good. But still, you can get booze only in State Stores, and since the PLCB has no competition, it alone controls the selection and the prices of what Pennsylvanians can buy. I suspect the same is true for Utah's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC).

There are twenty two Pennsylvania newspapers which have editorialized in favor of the privatization of alcohol sales in the state (NoPLCB blogspot, Albert Brooks, April 26, 2016) including the leading papers in all major markets; none against it. Of course the over 5000 members of the state store employees unions are against privatization.

(Note: PA Governor Tom Wolf just signed a law authorizing the sale of up to four bottles of wine per customer in grocery stores. It is a beginning; it reduces the inconvenience of having to go to a State Store, but prices and selection are still controlled by the PLCB.)

I cannot think of any reason, other than money and the control of another bureaucracy, why a state should ''control'' the sale of alcohol any more than it should control chain saws, long kitchen knives or pesticides. It is definitely NOT to the benefit of the citizens.

I am Winedabbler, and I approve this message.

(To the best of my knowledge the image of Gifford Pinchot is in the public domain)

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