In trying to assess the many changes that are happening in Astoria now, one in particular seems to me to have drawn insufficient public discussion: the ever-increasing number of commercial outlets for intoxicants. Our town of 10,000 people now has six marijuana stores, four breweries, a distillery, and a place specializing in hard cider, not to mention bars, a wine store, the state’s liquor store, and groceries selling beer and wine. Not surprisingly, Willamette Week recently identified Astoria as the best place in Oregon to get drunk.
Most of us, I think, do not object to intoxicants in moderation. They offer a partial, if temporary, release from some of life’s difficulties, but to make their availability omnipresent, as we have done in Astoria, creates serious problems. Among them is what appears to be an increase in impaired driving. The official records may not reflect this, since our overworked police department does not have the resources adequately to enforce traffic laws.
It is, as many have observed, a rare day now when one does not see speeding or the running of stop signs, and it is reasonable to assume that some of this increase is due to impaired driving, and traceable to Astoria’s focus on the profits from intoxicants.
Another problem with having so many outlets for alcohol and marijuana is that it makes recovery from addiction more difficult. It is harder to break a craving if you are everywhere confronted by what you want to avoid.
Most important, too much marketing of alcohol and marijuana makes a strong impression on children. To permit, for example, a large marijuana store to locate in the middle of one of Astoria’s primary business blocks is to imply to children that intoxicants are safe, important for a good life, and greatly to be anticipated. The lesson is too simple.
Were I a young parent, I would think carefully before choosing Astoria as a place to raise a family.