U.S. Shipping Laws Prove Nothing Short of Confusing

With the advent of the Internet came access to so many things at our fingertips. With just a credit card number and the click of a button, people are able to order just about everything to their doorstep. And while that often proves super convenient, one thing that still frustrates many is the fact that it is still illegal to order a bottle of wine and have it shipped to another state. You cannot call your favorite brewery across the country and ask for a six pack of beer. These laws are so serious, that in the state of Utah, having any out-of-state alcohol delivered is considered a felony.

The 21st Amendment and the Repeal of Prohibition

Many of the United States’ alcohol laws, written after the 21st amendment repealed Prohibition in the 1930s, also included shipping laws. These laws are often not only considered to be complex, but also confusing. The 21st amendment left states with the autonomy to be able to decide their own shipping regulations. The states established these regulations prior to FedEx and UPS came about. However, the Supreme Court’s decision to hear a wine-shipping case, Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association v. Byrd, demonstrates the relevancy of the topic of interstate alcohol shipment laws.

State-by-State Responsibility

Currently, each state may determine which permits are needed for a supplier to be able to sell or ship alcohol within its borders. Some states demand that the supplier who is shipping the alcohol must have a presence in the state in which they are shipping to. However, they differ from state-to-state.

The states with the most restrictive regulations regarding the shipping of alcohol are Utah (as mentioned above), Kentucky, and Mississippi. Kentucky shipping carriers refuse to deliver alcohol to consumers period due to the fact that it is too much of a hassle to determine which counties are “dry” and which counties are “wet.” Additionally, Mississippi is unable to ship alcohol directly anywhere.

Alternatively, a few of the states with the most relaxed alcohol laws include Alaska, District of Columbia, Florida, and Minnesota. In these states there are no permits required whatsoever in order to ship alcohol to consumers.

Penalties for Violating Interstate Alcohol Shipment Laws

Penalties for breaking these interstate alcohol shipment regulations include things as simple as fines, to as severe as revocations of businesses’ federal alcohol licenses. Not only is it illegal for wineries, vineyards, brewers, and other suppliers to sell alcohol, but it is also illegal for individuals to distribute it interstate. While FedEx and UPS demand special agreements for alcohol exchanges, and are allowed to dispose of any “sneaky” alcohol shipments, the United States Postal Service flat out refuses to ship any alcohol. However, in order for any packages to be disposed of, FedEx and the UPS must have reason to believe that there is alcohol in the box that you are shipping.

Are These Laws Constitutional?

Many professionals in the alcohol industry find these laws to be in violation of our country’s laws. When it comes down to it, it seems that with the way that interstate alcohol shipment laws are written, shipping seems to be prohibited unless it has been expressly stated to be allowed. It should be interesting to see how the law continues to evolve.

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