Let’s Make it Easier for Distillers To Ship Alcohol Directly to Adult Consumers
Advocates for distilled spirits producers and consumers are pushing Congress and states to reform antiquated, biased, and heavy-handed rules that make it difficult or impossible to ship liquor directly to consumers (DTC). The charge to modernize DTC legislation in Congress and the states comes as the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way many consumers buy—and states regulate—alcohol, with online orders and direct shipments gaining considerably in popularity over the past 18 months.
“The pandemic has dramatically changed the way we shop for everyday goods, including beverage alcohol, and the expectation that we can purchase what we need with a click and have it delivered to our door with proper identification will not soon go away,” wrote Chris Swonger, who leads the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), in a USA Today op-ed published this summer.
Two key DTC issues are in play right now. The first is that Congress effectively prohibits the U.S. Postal Service from transporting beer, wine, or spirits directly to consumers. Such shipments must be made through FedEx, UPS, and other private shippers, which are often more expensive than USPS. A bipartisan bill introduced this summer, the USPS Shipping Equity Act, would end that ban and allow the USPS to ship alcohol from licensed producers to consumers of legal drinking age.
The second issue is that even though nearly every state allows DTC shipments of wine, and many allow DTC shipments of beer—directly from brewers and vintners, respectively, to consumers—only nine states currently permit direct shipments of liquor from distillers to consumers. While some states have temporarily relaxed DTC liquor shipment rules during the pandemic, in most cases there’s no promise those measures will remain in place going forward.
Though the USPS shipping ban in Congress is a wholly federal matter, state shipping bans stem largely from states’ authority to regulate alcohol under the 21st Amendment. While that amendment ushered in the end of federal alcohol Prohibition, it also, I explained in 2017, “basically transferred the language from federal prohibition and made it essentially state prohibition, so it gives the states
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