A prohibitionist law that’s still on the books
The United States ended its disastrous alcohol prohibition regime in 1933. But the tendrils of prohibition ran so deep that a few still survive today. Among them: a century-old federal ban on sending alcohol through the mail. It’s not just alive, but thriving, in part because of another vestige of prohibition — alcohol wholesalers:
…an industry created after Repeal to appease Prohibitionists, who wanted more separation between liquor producers and liquor drinkers. No one who made liquor could sell it directly to liquor stores or bars—it had to first go through a distributor. Any erosion of the “three-tier” system—that is, permitting direct sales by mail—is an existential threat to the middle tier.
“Proposed legislation to allow the U.S. Postal Service to handle beverage alcohol is simply not a safe or responsible solution to answer the current significant needs of the USPS,” said the CEO and president of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) Michelle Korsmo last spring in opposing efforts to open the mail, citing the potential for underage ordering and avoidance of taxes.
It’s all for the children, you see. And Uncle Sam. But there are those in the booze business who think it’s time for the mail ban to face reality, and come to an end:
The Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (DISCUS), the nation’s largest liquor trade group, sees “a golden opportunity to help the struggling USPS,” and estimates that opening mailboxes to hooch could generate $180 million per year for the agency. It also argues that at a time when consumers are increasingly comfortable ordering everything online, that “direct-to-consumer shipping serves as an important complement to the traditional three-tier system of beverage alcohol distribution,” as DISCUS president and CEO Chris Swonger wrote in a guest essay for USA Today last spring.
So we’re stuck, for now, with a zombie prohibition law that continues to stalk the earth because the middle men prohibition created need it to survive. Time to end it all, and let adults decide how they want to shop for and receive their preferred beverages.