A study Drug harms in the UK: a multicriteria decision analysis by the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs stirred some waters by pointing out that the Alcohol is the most problematic drug in UK. It actually is near or at the top in most other parts of the world as well. Sure, the people do not like to hear that the substance they regularly consume causes so much problems. I’m sure such resistance is present in any case when a drug is such an integral part of the society, just like it was with tobacco. The resistance to scientific findings is much more subtle when the drug or chemical has not been integrated into society, like in case of DDT.
The study immediately caused negative reactions, concerned that other drugs will be legalized or alcohol banned, pointing out that alcohol is so problematic because of its widespread use and availability. Granted, after over 12000 years, alcohol will not disappear from our society. And I’m not sure we’d ever want it to disappear. Not just in the sense like other people don’t want to see their favorite drugs disappearing, but also from a standpoint of cultural inheritance. But what we can do is control alcohol’s availability much better. Selling to minors is omnipresent in many countries, an insurmountable problem due to omnipresence of alcohol nearly at every point of sale, from news stand to a burger shop. And this, I think, is where a balance could be struck. If only a limited number of dedicated liquor stores existed, overseen or controlled by the government, most problematic cases could be eliminated. Of course, the number of stores would be relative to the size of the settlement, village, town or city. Prague would have 20, London 120. A special license would be issued to bars and restaurants for distributing alcohol on the premises of the facility.
The thought behind the idea of having controlled availability of the substance is to use lazy nature of and tendency to abuse for a greater good. It is nearly impossible to control use of anything by having omnipresent availability and relying on humans to abide by the rules without proper accountability. A digital, rule abiding, nation-wide control system would be very costly to implement at this stage, not mentioning unsurmountable problems with effectiveness. Moving the problematic substance (alcohol) to a limited number of distribution points will have many benefits. First benefit is the benefit of the doubt, caused by the required travel distance to a distribution point. Getting an alcoholic beverage by walking 30 meters is different from getting the same beverage by having to travel five kilometers, discouraging some users from frequent alcohol abuse. Second benefit results from centralized control, that will be easy to implement in limited amount of specialized stores. This will greatly limit sales to minors and generally buyers that are clearly abusing the substance. Limited access, quotas and temporary bans would be imposed on domestic violence participants, DUI offenders, and other offenders that abused alcohol or participated in alcohol attributed offenses.
An inspiration for the basis of distribution control could be rules imposed by the Canadian government, which dealt with prohibition using somewhat similar system at the beginning of the 20th century.