Alcohol Regulation Roundup: Back To School Edition

by Michelle Minton on September 14, 2012 · 3 comments

in Alcohol Regulation Roundup, Nanny State, Personal Liberty, Regulation

Alabama: Up until last year brewpubs were illegal in Alabama due to a law that prevented beer being sold on the same site where it was brewed. Since the change, thanks to the efforts of the grassroots group Free The Hops, the state has seen about a dozen brewpubs open for business.

Also in Alabama: The liquor control board reversed its earlier ban on beer with “bastard” in the name thanks in part to those diligent ‘Bama beer fans who cried foul when ABC rejected the labels for use of “rough” language. Stay up to date with changes in Alabama beer laws by following @freethehops on Twitter.

California: San Rafael hops on the bandwagon by creating an individual rights free zone, I mean alcopop-free zone. Conjured up by neo-prohibitionist group “Alcohol Justice” (yes, that’s really their name), alcopop-free zones urge retailers to stop selling pre-made sweetened malt beverages like twisted tea and hard lemonade. For now, at least, it is a voluntary program.

Kentucky: Good and bad news out of the Bluegrass State. The good news is that a federal judge ruled in August that the state’s law banning wine and spirits sales in grocery and convenience stores is unconstitutional in violation of the equal protection clause.

The bad news is liquor stores filed an appeal less than a week later.

Maine: Maine considers trading a private monopoly for a state monopoly. Currently only one company has the right to import and distribute hard liquor in Maine. The Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations asserts that ending the contract would increase revenue to the state and lower prices for consumers. If they really want to help consumers and increase tax revenue to the state, they should allow many distributors to operate in the state, increasing variety and competition and lowering prices. Heck, they might even consider letting craft distillers distribute their own liquor, a move that would increase variety, bolster state businesses and increase revenue by encouraging companies to start up and grow in Maine.

Maryland: Farmers in Maryland take advantage of a new law that allows them to sell up to 15,000 barrels of farm-brewed beer.

Massachusetts: State legislators consider lifting the 28-year ban on free or discounted drinks. Some of the most vocal opponents of the change are bars and restaurants.

Michigan: As I predicted almost a year ago, the new keg tagging laws in Michigan probably didn’t reduce underage drinking, but certainly reduced keg purchasing.

New Hampshire: New Hampshire’s liquor commission is in hot water as some accuse the agency of illegally using a lobbyist (the same guy who lobbies for the Beer Distributors of New Hampshire) in order to defeat a bill that would have allowed liquor sales in grocery and convenience stores — a threat to the state monopoly.

New York: Starting January 1, small brewers will be able to end contracts with distributors without going to court — a time consuming and expensive process. Thanks to a bill signed into law in August by Governor Cuomo, breweries whose products make up  3 percent or less of sales at his or her distributor can simply pay “fair market value” for the loss of the brand. We’ll see if in practice it’s as simple as it sounds.

Oregon: As Oregon considers privatizing liquor sales, it looks to Washington State for what not to do.

Texas: Small brewers say archaic laws that bar breweries from selling beer on-site are costing them money. According to a study commissioned by the state craft brewers guild, changing some of the laws, like allowing beer sales on brewery tours and allowing brewpubs to sell their beer in off-site stores, would have an economic impact of $5.6 billion and create thousands of new jobs by 2020.

Utah: After a few tries, it seems the state hospitality association’s suite against the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage is at an end.

Also in Utah: A summit of health advocates and lawmakers in Provo  served to reinforce the entrenched belief that privatization of liquor sales would be bad for Utah. Some of the health advocates, patting lawmakers on the back for resisting the urge to privatize, based their assertion on a seriously flawed CDC study that used questionable methodology to reach the conclusion that privatization increased alcohol-related harm. While I will have a much more detailed criticism of that 2011 survey, in a nutshell it asserts that the less drinking moderate/responsible drinkers do the less drinking extreme drinkers will do, thus reducing harm. Of course, few lawmakers had reason to question the study or the experts that reaffirmed their beliefs and validated their past decisions.

Bruce Lee Livingston September 17, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Thanks for the mention of Alcohol Justice and our proposal for voluntary Alcopop-Free Zones. I guess you could call that a neo-Prohibitionist program if you actually thought that Prohibition was a voluntary program. We really don’t think that 7-Eleven will be so upset over not selling Mike’s Hard Lemonade that they will join the ranks of organized crime. Please get off your high horse and stop name-calling.

Michelle September 27, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Note that the name “neo-prohibitionist” was applied to the group–not the program. Perhaps temperance group is a more appropriate name for Alcohol Justice (AJ). I’ll make sure to call them that from now on. Of course, alcohol prohibition in the US was ushered in by the temperance movement.

Alcohol Justice (formerly known as the Marin Institute), has stated that its goal is to reduce the consumption of alcohol. The group has never acknowledged any positive benefits of consuming alcohol even in small or moderate amounts. AJ has never differentiated its goals from those of the Prohibition Party, nor has AJ rejected the support of the Prohibition Party. Therefore, it seems logical that if the group thinks alcohol is bad and reduction in drinking is good then a reduction in consumption to the point of abstinence is better.

I’m positive that the folks at Alcohol Justice believe that reducing consumption of alcohol will result in a better and healthier community. And the thing is that many people are willing to give up a little or pay a little more for the good of their community. That’s why I think it’s important to identify the end goal of a group like AJ so that people aren’t baby-stepped into a society that demonizes/criminalizes alcohol or that makes it too expensive for them to enjoy in the frequency and quantity they want.

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