Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ontario liquor laws to chill out

Ontario liquor laws are going to be loosened this summer, an idea which has overwhelming support in the Canadian province. The new relaxed laws will permit drinking to occur in public spaces during festivals instead of restricting them to beer tents and will allow weddings to serve alcohol until 2am. Yes, among the more relaxed drinking rules, people will have a little more leeway to drink at happy occasions, instead of having to sneak around or charge the bar at last call in the middle of the Macarena at their cousin's wedding.

Among the concerns regarding relaxed liquor laws: immorality, underage drinking, law enforcement issues. Really? Weren't these the same concerns during the Prohibition? Immorality for sure was on that list- it conjures up images of moral-less saloons full of low lifes and deadbeats, gambling and drinking with prostitutes before having an all out brawl to end the evening. I'm going to venture a guess that people have learned their lesson since then and that we won't have a repeat of the saloon age.

Then there's the underage drinking. Yeah, because when it comes to youth today, that's the most serious problem. Every time that I see ads on television for concerned parents, I can't help but roll my eyes. In the midst of bullying, drugs, smoking, body image, self-mutilation, and suicide, does anyone actually believe that a couple of kids trying beer for the first time in the bushes behind the school is a significant problem?

Responsible parents who are concerned about their children should talk to their kids and not worry that their first drink is going to kill them. And if they want to be the pro-active parent? They will let their child have a drink with them when they turn 16. Not a bottle of vodka during Monopoly- a glass of wine with dinner to show them that it's no big deal. Or a beer during the game. If they're given the chance to test it out and talk it over and see what responsible drinking is like, this might prevent these same kids from getting alcohol poisoning in their first year at university when they have no idea what they're doing.

Then there are law enforcement issues. While it's not illegal to drink, it is illegal to be drunk in public. It's a strange nuance of the law and one that can be enforced. The problem is, the police imagine that we're all going to behave like little children who have been let out for recess with lots of juice money in our pockets, and imagine that they will have to keep us all in line. Most hard-drinking citizens will declare that nobody has ever had to keep them in line and that they've stumbled out of more cabs than the common man. Others have never had an issue with public drunkenness because they usually fall down and sleep it off somewhere.

This thought that there will be more need to control drunken people because there will be more opportunity to drink is ridiculous. That's typical Puritan finger-wagging. It assumes that people won't adjust to the laws and be responsible. But if you assume that people won't be responsible with liquor, why allow them to drink at all? The stupid people who will abuse alcohol and tease law enforcers will always do it, whether you tell them to get drunk in the beer tent or two feet away from it in a park. The drunken conga line led by your uncle will always happen at your wedding, whether it's at 1am or 2am.

The majority of people will be responsible. New laws are not considered a license to go crazy and most people are smart enough to know that. It's probably about time that the government realized that and did something that it rarely ever does: trust us to be adults.

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