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Friday, January 06, 2012

Unpacking the OLCC's History

Last week, Brian Boe, executive director of Oregonians for Sound Economic Policy, wrote a very nice piece on the Oregon Liquor Control Commission in the Oregonian. In my periodic imprecations against the agency, I often fail to give the context of my pique. Keying off Washington State's recent efforts to change liquor laws, Boe does a great job providing background about how and why the OLCC was (mis)conceived:
When I first sought to study why the current system was adopted back in 1933, I quickly discovered that OLCC had very limited historical information.... Gov. Julius Meier in his remarks to the special session of 1933 asked the Oregon Legislature to study the "Rockefeller Report" and adopt its findings on liquor regulation as the 18th Amendment was about to be repealed. Produced by and written at the direction of the Rockefeller Foundation, the book was titled "Toward Liquor Control," by Raymond Fosdick, personal counsel to John D. Rockefeller Jr.

Utilizing European systems of liquor regulation as study guides, Fosdick patched together two systems of liquor control for the states to consider in their post-Prohibition deliberations. The regulatory model of least intrusion was called the "license system." The second model, and the one that Oregon ultimately chose, is known as an "authority or control system," in which the state retails liquor directly to the public.
The problem, Boe describes, is that no one really knew what the hell they were doing:
Other holdovers from 1933 include the requirement that grocers and restaurants pay cash-on-delivery for liquor rather than the 15- or 30-day terms they enjoy for all their other supplies.

Additionally OLCC insists on literal interpretations of rules that prohibit retailers from taking delivery of beer or wine into a warehouse and then transporting it to their stores with their own trucks. Such inflexibility hurts the environment (prompting double delivery trips where one could suffice), but also provides no tangible public benefit or protection. It is, like so many of the OLCC statutes, outdated thinking attempting to anticipate problems that have never occurred.
It's absolutely amazing that Oregon has never revisited the question of how to regulate alcohol sale and distribution. When I do go on my rants, it's not because I don't think the state needs to regulate alcohol (it does), but because the OLCC seems to be doing such a terrible job at it. Boe's backgrounder was really useful in laying out why the agency has always been hamstrung. It was badly conceived, and as a consequence, it's bad at that regulatory role. Good stuff.

1 comment:

  1. " one really knew what the hell they were doing."

    Good to see nothing changed over the past "80" years! This is just pathetic political atrophy for an un-Godly amount of time. Lucky we've adopted the use of automobles in this state. ;-)