|Marshall County Sheriff Joins Fellow Law Enforcement Leaders|
Nashville, Tenn. – More than 100 Tennessee chiefs of police and sheriffs have signed a pledge calling on state legislators to oppose the sale of wine in grocery and convenience stores out of concern for public safety and health. The loose coalition called “Tennessee Law Enforcement for Strong Alcohol Laws” includes 106 law enforcement leaders from Tennessee communities of all sizes, including Knoxville, Memphis, Kingsport, and Jackson.
The announcement was made at Legislative Plaza by Madison County Sheriff David Woolfork and Belle Meade Police Chief Timothy Eads, representing their colleagues across the state. They were joined at the event by Sheriff Norman Dalton of Marshall County, along with the sheriffs of Crockett, Chester and Haywood counties, police chiefs of Knoxville and Jackson, and representatives of the Mt. Pleasant and Waynesboro police departments and Perry County sheriff’s office.
“Tennessee’s alcohol laws are strong, and we need to keep them that way,” said Dalton. “As a law enforcement leader, public safety is my chief concern. To change our very sound laws for the sake of convenience would create more problems than it would solve. We’re talking about high-proof alcohol in not only grocery stores, but also in hundreds of convenience stores statewide, where control would be very difficult. The consequences would far outweigh any benefits.”
Should the proposed bill pass, the number of stores selling high-proof alcohol could rise 10 fold, from fewer than 600 to over 5,000. Currently, wine and spirits can only be sold in specialty stores that must be owned by Tennesseans, are limited in size, can have only one door, and can sell only one product – alcohol. Eads said high-proof alcohol should not be treated in the marketplace the same way as other grocery items.
Wine contains up to 3 times the alcohol content as beer, which is why it belongs in tightly controlled environments, the law enforcement officials said. They stressed that young people in their communities do drink wine, particularly boxed and sweet wines, because it makes them intoxicated faster than beer.
National and international research demonstrates that increased alcohol availability leads to higher instances of underage drinking, domestic violence and fatalities in a community. Woolfork said law enforcement departments are already struggling under tight budgets and this law would only make their jobs more difficult. Woolfork invited other state sheriffs, police chiefs and other members of law enforcement to join the effort and sign the pledge, and called on legislators to put public safety first.
“Take pride in the system we have put in place to control the sale of alcohol,” said Woolfork. “Tennessee is a model for other states of how to strike the right balance between access and control. We urge lawmakers to put safety before convenience and say no to putting wine in grocery and convenience stores.”