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Washington State Set to Vote on Measure That Changes Way Liquor is Sold

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Voters in Washington state are considering a measure that would change the way liquor is sold, The Wall Street Journal reports.

If the measure is passed, it could produce hundreds of millions of dollars for the state. The measure is opposed by the industry watchdog group Alcohol Justice. Alcohol distributors, which would suffer financially under the new system, are also against it.

Ballots were sent by mail last week, and must be returned by November 8.

Costco contributed millions of dollars to a campaign to pass the measure and led the effort to collect more than 360,000 signatures to put it on the ballot.

In Washington, the state owns the distribution and retailing of liquor. Wine and beer are privatized, the article notes. Under the proposed measure, known as I-1183, the distribution and retailing of liquor would be privatized. The Washington initiative would replace hundreds of state-run liquor stores with private retail stores, and let retailers purchase liquor directly from distillers. They would be able to negotiate volume discounts.

Alcohol Justice says I-1183 will authorize five times as many alcohol retailers, which in turn will lead to a jump in consumption and problem drinking. They point to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which in April recommended 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, a well-established proxy for excessive consumption,” the CDC noted in the report.

The article notes Washington Governor Chris Gregoire opposes the measure.

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