PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

What kind of message is the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission trying to send Massachusetts teenagers and liquor stores?

Rather than support the Dracut Board of Selectmen in its recent decision to give a 30-day suspension to Muldoon Liquors for selling alcohol to minors, it recommended an eight-day suspension with four days held back for a two-year probationary period. If there are no violations during that time, the final four days won’t be served.

This sends the wrong message to licensing boards, teens and liquor-store owners. Dracut selectmen get a slap in the face and the liquor store gets a slap on the wrist.

Selectmen realize the 30-day suspension may seem harsh for a first offense, but they want the word out that selling alcohol to minors will not be tolerated, and strong action will be taken against violators. Also, after police interviewed two teens who purchased liquor at the store, the young men said they were never asked to provide identification, and that they had bought alcohol at Muldoon Liquors on numerous occasions. Even though this was Muldoon’s first official transgression, a tough suspension certainly seemed warranted.

Unfortunately, the ABCC decision does not support selectmen’s strong stance.

This is more than disappointing. Alcohol is the number-one drug of choice for teens. Youths who drink alcohol are statistically more likely to be involved in a car accident, get into fights, have unsafe sex and/or experience problems in school. The legal age to drink and purchase alcohol is 21. Failure to comply with that law should carry strong penalties.

To their credit, Dracut selectmen are having town counsel review the ABCC recommendation and determine if the town must adhere to it. Typically, municipalities are advised to accept the ABCC’s recommendations, but we hope Dracut will be the first to buck the commission’s lenient decisions.