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Liquor privatization spurs look at MIPs

Jayna Smith, Assistant News Editor - November 14, 2012

On a college campus, there are many students who partake in celebrations centered on over indulgence of alcohol such as the infamous 21 run.

Harry Marloe, senior psychology major, said he celebrated his 21st birthday at a place called the Tap House. Marloe said he went there because he likes beer and they have 150 different beers on tap.

Marloe believes in what he calls, “Holland’s rule.” In that country, 16-year-olds are allowed to buy beer and wine, but have to be older to buy liquor. Marloe said he has seen minors drink and feels like they are able to handle themselves.

“I see the privatization could be terrible for anyone with an alcohol problem,” Marloe said. “As for minors the privatization probably hasn’t changed much.”

Hard alcohol was previously regulated and sold by the government, but on May 31 in Washington that changed. Alcohol was privatized by a vote of the majority, making it legal for gas stations, grocery stores and drug stores to carry not just wine and beer, but spirits as well.

Since alcohol has only been privatized for about six months, law enforcement and Central’s student conduct officers can’t say whether minors are consuming more alcohol based solely on the increased level of accessibility through the grocery stores, but they agree minors are finding ways to get a hold of alcohol.

“If it involves alcohol-related offenses, we see a lot of minors drinking,” said university police Captain Jason Koch.

According to records from the Ellensburg Police Department, there were 37 arrests for minor in possessions, from January through Oct. 13, with 56.8 percent given since alcohol was privatized. The CWU Police Department public records showed 46 liquor offenses since January, and less than half of the offenses occurred after June 1. Although of the 15 offenses reported involving minors, a third of them required medical attention due to overdose or other non-listed medical issues.

An MIP offense can result in an arrest, Koch said. It is always left up to the police officer to assess the severity of the situation and choose the appropriate course of action. Disciplinary actions range from receiving a warning to being booked in jail and charged $250 for release. Koch said there is also a diversion program offered through the prosecutor’s office.

CWU police also can refer students to conduct officers, which is their most frequent action.
According to Central’s Annual Security and Fire Safety Report 2012, there was a spike in the number of liquor law referrals from 2010 to 2011 in the residence halls, starting with 413 referrals in 2010, and rising 23 percent to 508 in 2011.

Violating a state or federal law on or off campus is an infraction of the policy.

As a student conduct officer Jack Baker, assistant to the dean of student success, said students don’t always make good decisions and he thinks the alcohol laws should have been left alone.

“Alcohol is the number one reason why students do not graduate,” Baker said.

Central’s Wellness Center, along with other departments on campus, offers help for students who are struggling with alcohol problems. Under the Influence is an online alcohol education program that is offered. Prime for Life is another alcohol education course offered to students.

Some students don’t think they run a risk by drinking before they reach 21. Many boast of partying with alcohol as the main attraction.

Jordan Metcalf, freshman undecided, said he was pretty independent before he came to Central and he feels he is adjusting to college well. He said his decision to consume alcohol as a minor, hasn’t affected his grades.

“I usually just drink on the weekends and do school during the weekdays,” Metcalf said.

Students’ ability to get alcohol at a grocery store extends the hours they can purchase alcohol. Metcalf said he doesn’t think the grocery stores selling it has much to do with minors’ ability to get alcohol.

Metcalf said it’s easy to find somone who is 21. Since the Four Loko overdose incident happened in Roslyn in October of 2010, Baker said he hasn’t seen as many Four Lokos in the police reports that come through his office. He said it can be really dangerous to mix alcohol, a depressant, with uppers like energy drinks.

Baker speculates that with alcohol now being sold in grocery stores, students could be more apt to want to drink simply because it is now more out in the open.

“It could make it a little bit more tempting,” Baker said.“It is certainly far more accessible.”

DUIs are often thought of as a common offense affecting students. However, according to EPD records show only three of the 90 DUIs reported this year involved students. CWU Police only recorded one student DUI over the last year.

Even with low numbers of DUIs, officers still believe prevention isn’t good enough.

“To me one DUI is too many because they are preventable,” Koch said.

Students are finding ways to avoid having to drive while intoxicated. Marloe said that he doesn’t have any issues with not driving when he has been drinking.

“I generally have a DD,”designated driver, Marloe said. “But if not, I’m not afraid to walk.”

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