Wine hysteria unfounded

Wine hysteria unfounded

January 28th, 2013 in Opinion Free Press

According to Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch, if a Tennessee state law banning the sale of wine in grocery stores is repealed, a "butt chugging" epidemic may spread across university campuses. Really.

For those who may need their memories refreshed regarding the unfortunate incident that occurred at the University of Tennessee campus, last September, a Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity member -- in an attempt to get drunk more quickly -- reportedly consumed boxed wine rectally.

Not only did the situation make headlines across the nation, the student spent several days recovering in a Knoxville hospital. The notorious event also resulted in a revocation of his fraternity's charter.

During an interview with the Nashville-based WPLN radio station, Rausch suggested that, if the state legislature allows wine sales in grocery stores, such life-threatening incidents of idiocy will become the norm.

"I was asked, 'well they got it from a liquor store?' Rausch said. "Well yeah, but if you're going to make it even more accessible, that incident is not going to be isolated."

Although Rausch may have genuine concern for those who abuse alcohol (even if his argument is ludicrous), he is unwittingly lending support to Tennessee wine wholesalers who are "profit chugging."

Currently, a decades-old Tennessee state law prohibits the sale of wine in grocery stores. As a result, Tennesseans must visit their local package store to satisfy their craving for the taste of fermented grapes.

The real reason that wine is not sold in grocery and convenience stores is not based on morality or concerns for those who may imbibe too much wine, however unorthodox their methods of ingestion. It's due to the resistance of -- and campaign donations from -- those who benefit from Tennessee's wine monopoly system.

Only one wine wholesaler is permitted to distribute a particular wine brand in each designated region in the state, ensuring a monopoly on wine sales in that area. This system is quite lucrative for distributors who benefit from the lack of competition and the ability to charge higher prices. Profit chugging, indeed.

As a result, wine distributors vehemently oppose efforts to sell wine in the same grocery and convenience stores where beer already is sold, since it would open up the market to competition.

The distributors may feign concern for the general well-being of Tennesseans -- even though study after study shows that states that allow wider wine sales are not plagued with higher levels of alcohol-related health problems or incidences of drunk driving. Their real worry, however, is protecting their ability to rack up huge profits courtesy of bad policy.

It is time for Tennessee to repeal this preposterous law and allow wine in grocery stores. Butt chugging isn't the problem; greed is the problem.