The Alcohol and Beverage Control Division of the Mississippi State Department of Revenue has increased the number of enforcement agents working in Oxford on football game days.
“On Aug. 25, 2022, approximately 17 agents from across the state assisted with an enforcement detail in Oxford,” ABC Bureau of Enforcement stated.
According to the bureau, agents are frequently dispatched in large numbers across the state for special events in college towns as well as for Mardi Gras Parades, concert venues, St. Patrick’s Day Parades and the Neshoba County Fair to name a few.
Recently, many agents have been in Oxford investigating local bars on the Square.
An employee who works at a bar on the Square, who requested to stay anonymous for fear of workplace retaliation, shared their observations with The DM.
“One night on the job, I witnessed 10 ABC officers enter the bar, cops with rubber bullets on their chests. They went around checking people’s IDs if they looked young and had a drink in their hand. It’s beginning to be like every other night, especially on game days, officers come in and check people’s ID’s,” they said.
ABC increases enforcement measures in college towns corresponding to busy times at the universities and the bars that surround them.
“ABC implements a statewide initiative with a focus on all colleges and major universities that typically coincides with the beginning of the new school year. Then enforcement activities are performed at random intervals, where complaints are received or at the request of local law enforcement,” ABC Bureau of Enforcement said. “The level of enforcement in Oxford is consistent with what ABC Enforcement has historically done in the past in all of the college and university towns, statewide.”
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the first six weeks of freshman year are the most likely times for college students to engage in underage drinking due to social pressures. As the first six weeks of the school year coincide with football season, many students are likely to engage in underage drinking.
“Most underage persons that are compliant with the agent’s requests are cited and released, as long as their apparent level of intoxication does not pose a danger to themselves or the public,” ABC Bureau of Enforcement said.
ABC agents conduct walkthroughs to look for visual evidence of underage drinking and to also conduct undercover operations with underage informants that attempt to purchase regulated substances from shop owners.
In addition to increasing policing in college towns like Oxford during the start of the school year, ABC Bureau of Enforcement has new responsibilities outlined in the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act, passed by the legislature earlier this year to legalize medical marijuana in Mississippi.
To meet those responsibilities, 12 additional officers have been hired.
“On July 1, 2022, ABC Enforcement was tasked with regulation of the MS Medical Cannabis Dispensaries where legislature granted the funding to add 12 sworn law enforcement officers, bringing the total to 36 ABC Enforcement Agents statewide,” ABC Bureau of Enforcement said.
ABC organizes the state of Mississippi into districts to plan where to disperse agents and has not commented on whether or not districting will change due to the “opt-out” clause in the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act, which allows certain counties to prevent cannabis businesses from setting up shop within their borders.
“ABC Bureau of Enforcement currently has six districts across the state. Population density is taken into account when dispersing agents across the state,” ABC Bureau of Enforcement said.