Sobering decision

January 21, 2014

A wise man recently said “you can't legislate morality,” a statement that we would wholeheartedly agree with.
We do think, however, that you CAN legislate immorality — a fact bolstered by this country's swing toward same-sex marriage and accepted marijuana use.
And now, Bladen County is faced with the question of whether to allow for the county-wide sale of beer and wine. That decision will be made May 6 when a referendum will be decided by registered voters.
As expected, there are passionate arguments coming from both sides of the issue.
Proponents point primarily to economic advantages, saying tax revenues and keeping buyers from going to other counties for their beer and wine will put piles of money into the local coffers. In addition, some say allowing the sale of beer and wine will also spark additional local sales of other items, as well help to attract new businesses.
Opponents counter that, with more outlets selling beer and wine will come more of the problems associated with it — including underage drinking, rises in alcohol-related accidents and domestic violence, as well as higher risks for moderate or light drinkers to become binge drinkers. They also claim that the economic impact would be minimal at best.
Voters will have to come to their own conclusions concerning each argument, but we are comfortable that the sobering statistics pointed out by those opposed to the referendum far outweigh those being touted by advocates.
Bladen County already has 40 outlets for beer and/or wine sales — a pretty fair number for a county with a population of about 35,000. There has also been no solid proof that the county's economy could get a tremendous boost by allowing additional outlets to sell beer and wine.
Two other aspects of the referendum to keep in mind:
— First, the decision on May 6 will be made by all registered voters in the county, which includes those in the four towns already selling beer and/or wine (Elizabethtown, White Lake, Clarkton and East Aradia). That means voters in those areas could force towns like Dublin, Tar Heel and Bladenboro — where such a referendum has already been soundly defeated in the past — to allow beer and wine to be sold.
— Second, proponents of the referendum will often conclude their argument by stating something like, “it's not the 1950s anymore.” That's a true statement, but has no merit in this debate. The passage of time, regardless of how long, does not change the moral values and obligation of a county — especially one snuggled firmly within this country's Bible Belt.
After careful consideration of both sides of this important debate, we are content in urging the county's voters to defeat the referendum on May 6.