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OPINION: End prohibition, downward spiral in Ambler

February 10th, 2017 | Tristen Pattee Print this article   Email this article  

I live in a small, rural community where alcohol has been illegal to import or sell for decades under Alaska's "local optional law." Even as a "dry" community, alcohol remains to be consistently available.

Since childhood, I've witnessed obscene amounts of alcohol consumption, and the impact that has had on friends and family. The memories of belligerents roaming at all hours of the night and day will never fade from my memory. Illegal or not, the high demand and allure of potential profits will always exist, along with those that are willing to meet that demand.

With the high rate of unemployment, prohibition of alcohol in my community has turned this substance into an opportunity for steady income for anyone willing to assume the risks involved.

The high demand of alcohol has also made it socially acceptable for bootleggers to bring it into the community, with leaders only turning a blind eye until someone is caught or accused publicly of importing or selling. Those same leaders who contribute to the demand, then create a political spectacle, and condemn the "shameful acts." This is what the black market has turned our community into. A community of double standards. A community divided.

A bottle of illegally imported alcohol can be sold for a large profit in most "dry" communities, and since there is no tax on illegal alcohol, the revenues only benefit those that are importing and selling in the community.

The black market exists because of the local option law, and removes any chance for a sustainable economy in our community. Legalizing alcohol rips the control away from the bootlegger by reducing the value of imported alcohol, causing the costs to outweigh the benefits.

The city can use the revenue from legal alcohol sales to provide appropriate mitigation controls in the community.

Currently, there are no revenues for local law enforcement, and there is a heavy reliance on the Alaska State Troopers, who are required to make a 1.5 hour flight for any calls. Most of the time they are unable to make it out for various reasons, which often leads to the offender getting away with the crime they've committed, creating a double standard between rural and urban areas.

Last year was another a year of rape, sexual assault of minors, DUI's, burglary, theft, domestic violence, and manslaughter, most of which went without prosecution.

The demand for alcohol will always be there, no matter what community it is. Without legal revenues from alcohol to fund local law enforcement and programs to help those that need it most, alcohol is going to leave us with a town screaming for help. It's time we make a change that can benefit our communities.

It's time we take control of our community and turn it into what we envision it can be. That vision is a healthy, independent, lawful, and self-sustaining community.

Tristen Pattee is a resident of Ambler, Alaska.


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