By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
March 2, 2022
Alcohol policy is a signature issue for the Christian Action League and has been for three-quarters of a century. Anytime something consequential happens regarding alcohol sales or marketing, the CAL keeps Christians who share its concerns informed. However, this news story is about a certain kind of alcohol banned in North Carolina and not the usual theme pertaining to alcohol-related harms. It’s about a gesture in protest of Russian aggression in Ukraine.
Monday, in Executive Order 251, Governor Roy Cooper responded to and condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine by ordering all Russian manufactured alcohol be removed from Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) stores across the state.
The Governor said in his executive order that “North Carolina stands with Ukraine and strongly condemns Russia’s actions…North Carolina seeks to ensure that its actions do not aid Russia, whether directly or indirectly…Now, Therefore: The North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission is directed to review its list of approved products for any produced by Russian Entities and to suspend the approval of such products as quickly as practicable.”
The ABC Commission followed with a statement, which read:
“In accordance with Executive Order 251, the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Commission has suspended the availability of spirituous liquor products in North Carolina which are produced by Russian entities. Russian-produced Special-Order products are also no longer available.
“The Commission will continue to review the full list of approved products in North Carolina to determine whether additional suspensions should be applied.”
Three Russian alcohol brands are reportedly affected by the Governor’s order. They are Hammer and Sickle, Beluga, and Russian Standard – all of which are vodkas.
This symbolic gesture of political solidarity with the Ukrainian people has also spread to bars and restaurants in the Tar Heel state. According to the Fayetteville Observer, “Not only has the Twisted Grape in Cameron gotten rid of all its Russian imports, but any customer who brings a bottle of Russian spirits and pours it out outside the restaurant will receive half-off their dinner.”
The idea for banning Russian vodkas in North Carolina was initially suggested by State Sen. Michael Garrett (D-Guilford), who called for the prohibition on Saturday of last week. In an interview with the Raleigh News and Observer, Garrett said the idea was passed along to him by his Ukrainian constituents. Garret acknowledged that vodka is not a top import from Russia; nevertheless, he said it was “the most visible product that this country consumes from Russia.”
“I think it’s important for the people of Ukraine to know where the people of North Carolina stand,” Garret told the N&O. “I think its important for the rest of the global community to understand what our state is about – what our values are, what our principles are, what our priorities are.”
According to the Associated Press, other Governors and states have removed Russian-made vodkas. Those include Utah (Republican Gov. Spencer Cox), New Hampshire (Republican Gov. Chris Sununu), Ohio (Republican Gov. Mike Dewine), and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
“I commend our Governor and the NCABC for taking action to remove Russian alcohol products from North Carolina ABC stores,” said Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “It’s a commendable thing, and though I would not seek to diminish its value, it won’t likely affect in any substantive way the Russian economy. After all, there isn’t even that much Russian vodka in the U.S. marketplace. It’s a symbolic gesture at best.”
“To be fair, the Governor’s executive order also addressed any existing state contracts for goods and services. Still, if the Governor wants to do something substantive about this conflict – something that would counter Putin’s aggression, then let him pressure President Biden about the importance of America’s energy independence,” Creech added. “I’m glad this symbolic gesture was taken; it’s good. But we need to be focused on oil and energy, not just vodka or other goods and services.”
Fox News reported that “Europe has become so dependent on Russia for oil and gas that even while NATO countries announce new sanctions against Russia, sanctions on oil and gas – an industry that provided 36% of Russia’s budget last year – have been conspicuously absent.”
“I am no expert on foreign affairs, but I think anyone can see what ought to be addressed immediately is the opening up and finishing of the Keystone Pipeline, as well as exploring and creating new sources of oil and gas,” said Creech. “Let the natural gas and oil flow here, and also export it – so we or other NATO countries won’t have to be beholden to Russia.”
“If Gov. Cooper won’t press the President about this, and he won’t, then the Republican-led North Carolina General Assembly should pass a resolution to this effect, which would represent the collective will of North Carolinians, and send it to the President. I might be tempted to drink to that,” said Creech. “Well, not really, but that might lead to something substantive being done.”