by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Americans can be forgiven for being confused. In many places, you can now get a margarita delivered to your door from the local Mexican restaurant; the brewery down the street can drop off a growler; and you can get a bottle of wine in your weekly InstaCart order. But if you try to order a bottle of whiskey from your favorite Tennessee distillery, it suddenly all goes awry.
Americans on both the left and the right are tired of our nation’s hopelessly convoluted alcohol laws. COVID-19 has ushered in an era of unprecedented boozy deliveries dropped off at our doorsteps, but the revolution is far from complete. Although over 40 states allow wineries to mail their wine to consumers, only a small handful of states permit distilleries or breweries to do so. This nonsensical distinction does more than confuse consumers; it also creates arbitrary winners and losers in the marketplace.
While the pandemic has led to a wave of reforms that allow local restaurants, grocery stores, and alcohol producers to hand-deliver products to our homes, shipping beer or liquor in the mail remains nearly impossible. The United States Postal Service entirely forbids the shipment of alcohol through its channels, and barely a dozen states allow the mailing of liquor or beer.
Unsurprisingly, consumers are becoming increasingly vocal about their support for alcohol shipping. The Distilled Spirits Council just released a survey indicating that 80 percent of Americans think distillers should be permitted to ship liquor to consumers’ doorsteps.
Yet change remains frustratingly slow. To get to a truly online, national shipping market for alcohol, both Congress and state lawmakers need to act. Congress should pass now-pending legislation to allow the post office to send alcohol, and each state needs to treat wine, beer, and liquor equally when it comes to shipping.