Michigan’s alcohol regulatory system contributes to higher costs for the public without providing discernible public health and safety advantages, according to a study released Monday by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
“It is clear from Center of Disease Control data on alcohol-attributable deaths, for instance, that when it comes to health and safety, states with heavy state alcohol control regimes do not outperform states with lighter controls, such as license states, as opponents of deregulation might have us believe,” said Michael LaFaive, director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center and co-author of the study. “They are virtually indistinguishable, though on average, license states actually have fewer alcohol-attributable deaths per 100,000 people.”
In terms of alcohol regulation, Michigan is what's known as a “control state." A control state acts as a wholesaler for hard liquor or wine or beer for its citizens. Of the 18 alcohol control states in the U.S. some wield heavy, moderate and light control, respectively. Michigan is a light control state but still exercises more control than states that regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages through licensing structures.
The Liquor Control Advisory Rules Committee is expected to release recommendations for possible reforms to Michigan's system this spring, or over the summer. Regardless of what those recommendations turn out to be, the issue will likely be hotly debated.
A persistent argument for the more-regulated alcohol control systems, like Michigan's, is that they provide greater public health protection.
However, Mackinac's research debunks that argument. Numerous studies reveal that there is no significant public health advantage in states that act as wholesaler for some types of alcohol.
States that have taken more of an open market, licensing, approach have fared at least as well, without imposing higher costs on businesses and customers.