Regulators Chase “Five Wives” Out of Idaho

Ben Winslow from Salt Lake City’s own Fox 13 reports on the decision by Idaho liquor regulators to bar sales of vodka from Ogden, Utah producer Ogden’s Own. In a letter to the distillery, Idaho Liquor Division Deputy Director of Procurement Howard Wasserstein notes that:

Social responsibility is very important aspect of the marketing and sales of distilled spirits in the State Idaho. The Idaho State Liquor Division is responsible for the safety and well-being of the citizens of the citizens of our State.

Products we feel are marketed toward children, or are in poor taste with respect to our citizens will not be authorized for distribution.

We feel Five Wives Vodka concept is offensive to a prominent segment of our population and will not be carried.

Ogden’s Own replies:

“We have a product that has sold nearly 1,000 cases in six months in Utah,” explained Steve Conlin, partner and vice president of marketing at Ogden’s Own Distillery. “If the reaction is because of a religious concern, we think they are extremely misguided.”

“We can only presume he means Mormons,” Conlin continued. “Though that makes little sense as they allow Polygamy Porter from Wasatch Beers of Utah to be sold. We’re a little dumbfounded by it all.”

According to the U.S. Census, 27 percent of Idaho’s population are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Ogden’s Own Distillery applied for general listing and was rejected two months ago. The state’s position now blocks establishments from even receiving ‘special orders’ of the product.

 Idaho has one of the most restrictive liquor licensing laws in the nation, according to this study done by Michigan’s Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The study, written by Michael LaFaive and Anthony Davies, finds that:

Graphic 1 shows total alcohol-attributable deaths per 100,000 residents in 48 states during the period from 2001 through 2005, the most recent years for which data are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[†] The data include deaths of both adults and children. The states in Graphic 1 are grouped from left to right by the four degrees of liquor control: heavy-control, moderate-control, light-control and license states.

The four groups are essentially indistinguishable. If state alcohol controls worked in proportion to their scope, the bars would tend to rise like stair steps from left to right across the graphic. Instead, to take just one example, the average alcohol-attributable fatality rate is lower in the license group than in the low-control group (28.46 vs. 29.95 deaths per 100,000 people, respectively). The same holds true for the under-21 fatality rate, where the average in license states is 1.70 and the average in light-control states is 1.84.[8] Statistical tests do not indicate that a state’s alcohol control regime affects average alcohol-attributable death rates.[‡]

Note that of the 10 states with the lowest fatality rates, eight are license states. The two others are a light-control state, Iowa (eighth), and a moderate-control state, New Hampshire (10th); none of the top 10 is a high-control state.

Perhaps it is time for Idahoans to re-evaluate the goals and aims of their public policy, and to particularly consider abolishing Idaho’s restrictive alcohol-control regime with something more sensible that focuses more narrowly on the public safety issues that are really at stake.
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