Friday, April 24, 2009

Law Commission favours Black Market alcohol model

I'm following the Law Commission's signalling on the proposed review of the Sale of Liquor Act very closely. Geoffrey Palmer's speech earlier in the year outlined the realities. Yep, alcohol is a Class B drug. But the latest news is not so great:
Proposed changes included increasing the price of alcohol, raising the drinking age, and radically lowering the breath alcohol level for drivers.
In the cause of Doing Something, this report paints the Commission as decidedly conservative. Alcohol and tobacco have long been whipping boys for the Treasury coffers. Never mind that there's something like a fifty percent tax on them already. It's one tax increase that even Bill English can get away with, such is the self-flagellating acceptance of the citizens' sins.

And dismiss the thought that the additionally inflated value of these goods might see armed robberies of their suppliers more likely. As a wild guess, the report (due in July) will probably also recommend a tightening of licence restrictions. Between the taxes and the increased costs, expect to see a few more business busts. The DB pub massacre will just be the beginning. Job losses through a transmogrified "harm minimisation" policy.

You'll also see bars go underground to evade these punitive rules. There's a few in existence already due to the indoor smoking ban. Where once bars were the preserve of adults only, the nanny state ensured that every bar now had high chairs and a kid's menu. The pubs turned into crèches, leaving adults nowhere to be irresponsible. Markets abhor a vacuum.

As for raising the PURCHASING AGE of alcohol, fat lot of good that'll do. One of the best ways to get a teenager to do something is tell them not to do it. I'm quite sure the Keep It 18 campaign would have no trouble in rebooting and refuting the case there.

And lowering the limbo bar for drink driving will have little to no impact at all on the main culprits, that small but dangerous loose unit of habitual drunken nutters who get behind the wheel. None of the above would have prevented the drunken pregnant teen from Whangarei being in the news.

More worryingly, the Law Commission's review of the Misuse of Drugs Act is due out at around the same time. The Law Commission does not do coincidences. The throttling of liquor bodes ill for positive reform of things there. Small hedge though. The LawCom cites alcohol as Class B. If marujuana is recognised as Class C, a lower risk than booze, it could be good.