Carolina Journal‘s John Trump writes for Daily Journal:

The Program Evaluation Division has a compiled and released a comprehensive report that looks at how North Carolina regulates and controls liquor sales and offers ways and legislative options toward changing and modernizing the process.

The thoughtful 59-page report, “Changing how North Carolina Controls Liquor Sales has Operational, Regulatory, and Financial Ramifications,” plus appendices, provides an excellent starting point for lawmakers who want to reform the system, as well for those intent on maintaining the status quo.

But lawmakers should not, uh, read too much into it.

As bills are introduced, the PED report will become the basis for much of the debate, and in some cases lawmakers’ respective points will become mantra and even rallying cries.

It’s easy to predict what some of those will be.

Liquor consumption in North Carolina, and how it correlates with liquor density — ABC stores — will be a common theme, but mostly for those resisting free-market models.

As one lawmaker said Feb. 11, North Carolina, in the Southeast, has the lowest rate of consumption — third-lowest nationwide — it’s bringing in the most revenue per wine gallon sold —455,829,000 for fiscal 2016-17 — and it has the lowest density.

The N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission and its 170 boards run 433 stores, which, in fiscal 2016-17, sold, the report says, 79 million bottles of liquor.

“At $36.79 per wine gallon, North Carolina collected four times as much revenue per gallon as Louisiana, which collected the lowest revenue per gallon among southeastern states,” the PED says

“Among Southeastern states, North Carolina collects the most public revenue per gallon of liquor sold, has the lowest liquor outlet density, and has the second lowest adult per capita liquor consumption,” the report says.

Shaw says the PED — the legislature’s government watchdog arm — uses a universally accepted standard to measure consumption, done by dividing the total amount of liquor sold — in wine gallons — by the number of people 21 and older.

But alcohol consumption is generally down, so N.C. lawmakers would do well to consider other factors when debating the fate of the ABC system.

Read more here.