Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee
Speech by Rev. Mark Creech
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee,
I am Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League.
On behalf of hundreds of churches across North Carolina, I have been addressing alcohol policy in this state for 18 years. Contrary to the misconception of many, the objective of the League, at least under my leadership, has not been to prevent people from getting a drink. Instead, the objective has been to remind members of the General Assembly that alcohol is not an ordinary commodity. It is inherently problematic and can pose a significant risk to public health and safety, even for those committed to using it responsibly.
Alcohol-related problems are at an all-time high. They’re not getting any better, only progressively worse, everything from underage drinking, to alcohol-related crime, to motor vehicle accidents. Our alcohol-related problems have become the third leading cause of preventable death in this country.
A common response to this problem is, “Well, people should take responsibility for themselves” – a position with which I agree. But after decades of studies on alcohol-related problems, nearly all of them essentially reach the same conclusion – that it really isn’t that simple. Instead, we have to look beyond individual factors and start looking at community factors. Policies that regulate the density of alcohol outlets are very important. When alcohol is made more readily and easily accessible, people typically drink more and alcohol-related harms are exacerbated.
I have not had the time to carefully research the specific possible negative impacts of this bill’s numerous provisions, and likely won’t have the time in this short session, and I doubt neither will any of you.
The bill, however, does make alcohol more readily accessible by increasing alcohol outlets with new tasting privileges, alcohol in movie theatres, sports and entertainment venues, raffles, and ferries.
Movie theaters? Will there be any place that a family can go anymore that doesn’t have alcohol? Well, you say they don’t have to sell it. Yes, but how will some movie theaters be able to compete with those that do, if they choose not to have it.
Ferries? Will we put security on these boats? Who will step in to handle the person who has had too much to drink and becomes problematic for the rest of the passengers? It’s not like law enforcement can quickly show up.
The underlying message in this bill, although not necessarily intended by its sponsors, is that control and regulation of alcohol is outdated. It’s a different day. We don’t need to be so cautious.
Attitudes about drinking may have changed, but alcohol-related problems haven’t changed for the better but for the worse. This bill has not and cannot be effectively vetted before the end of this short session. It would have us to throw caution to the wind, chasing business profits at the expense of public health and safety.
Omnibus alcohol bills, I think, can be like removing melted American cheese from a DVD player. You might clean it up, but chances are you won’t. And if passed, the damage is done and extensive.