Monday, November 19, 2007

Free Mr. Jack

If you aren't from Tennessee, there are probably a few things you've come to know about this State by reputation, some things that make it famous: Davy Crockett, Lookout Mountain, Dolly Parton and Dollywood, Rocky Top, the Grand Ole Opry, Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, the Delta Blues, and Graceland and the King who lived there. These are just a few of the things that make Tennessee a unique and special place to live-there are too many others to mention here. If the world is unfamiliar with the rest of those things, it is at least familiar with the most famous beverage Tennessee produces-a distilled liquid that is amber in color after years of aging, is made in Lynchburg, and always has a Number 7 attached to it.

Tennessee's ridiculously arcane liquor laws may soon require that a stash of Mr. Jack's finest that was apparently being sold without a license to be totally destroyed, despite the fact that some or all of it may have been stolen from the distillery. Rather than give it back to the people who made it, current law requires that the State destroy it. Meanwhile, they can make a profit off of other stolen property:

Tennessee law allows law enforcement agencies to sell and profit from expensive cars, yachts, jewelry and other high-end toys confiscated at the homes of drug dealers. Yes, even their homes can be sold.

But not a bottle of ill-gotten sipping whiskey.

The very idea of pouring a perfectly preserved bottle of Jack Daniel's from 1914 (one of the many old finds in the raid that produced the stash) down the drain smacks of desecration of the sacred soil of Tennessee. Committing such an act is no different than trashing the Ryman Auditorium or dumping your home's entire weekly trash load into Cades Cove. It is an act of supreme disrespect for this State. Unless the legislature steps in come January to save the pride of Lynchburg, law enforcement officials will destroy some of the rarest of the Volunteer State's most famous product.

Contrary to popular belief, Tennessee's antiquated liquor laws are not kept on the books in order to placate certain religious groups. There is no great outcry from the Tennessee Baptist Convention to destroy the rare whiskey to save countless souls from the devil's drink. Gone are the days when Protestant churches and bootleggers would join together at the polls in the great unspoken alliance to keep counties in Tennessee and throughout the South as dry as a bone.

Instead, the power behind insuring that the people of Tennessee cannot buy wine at the grocery store or beer at the liquor store, the reason that "dry county" often doesn't mean completely dry and "wet county" doesn't mean truly "wet" is none other than the liquor lobby itself. The liquor lobby fights not to insure that we may purchase liquor as we may choose that the distilleries may make a profit, but instead to insure that package store owners do not have competition. It is also for this reason that Tennessee law does not allow for the ordering of liquor on the internet (no, it is not for any feigned reasons of concern that someone might present a fake ID to the delivery man-they can just as well do that to a store clerk). Anything that would allow for competition to the established order of liquor purchase in this State must be crushed under foot before liquor stores are forced to lower their prices because consumers finally have options.

It isn't conservative religious groups that need to be shaken down politically in order to scrap Tennessee's antiquated liquor laws-but the liquor lobby itself.



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