Alcohol Problem in California

Your companion articles (Editorial Pages, June 9), "The 'Crime' of Public Drunkenness: a Case for California's Highest Court," and "A Memory of 'Murmur Booze': How Drinking Dulls the Soviets," suggest that rot-gut wine dulls more than wino brains, notwithstanding that public inebriates only comprise about 5% of California's problem drinkers.

If the California Supreme Court finally decides to join foursquarely the 35 other states that have decriminalized public drunkenness, the Legislature and the governor may finally be pressured to enact a permanent and stable funding base (such as significantly increasing booze taxes) for relieving harassed public safety agencies and inadequately funded public treatment facilities striving to reduce escalating alcohol-related problems.

With a strong public-interest decision the Supreme Court may well throw the current public alcohol-services delivery system into disarray. So unprepared is the "system" for the Sundance decision that in Los Angeles County alone barely 3% of its estimated problem drinkers are being reached by public resources.

Surely a Legislature that has found alcohol abuse to be California's No. 1 drug problem ought to be courageous enough to enact and fund--at last--the sort of legal and regulatory prevention and treatment activities designed to reduce California's rampant alcoholization.

Local governments--counties, cities, school districts--can no longer be expected to pick up the bills and the problems of a state system of so-called alcoholic beverage control that is missing the mark in protecting the "public safety, health, welfare, peace, and morals"--its original stated purpose.

The Sundance case, ironically, may be just the crisis policy-makers need to help reduce California's various problems with inappropriate alcohol use.



Chavira is a member of the state Advisory Board on Alcohol-Related Problems.

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