Support for State Regulation


Who supports state alcohol regulation?

Litigation against the states brought by those wishing to deregulate alcohol for their own economic interests is of great concern to state alcohol regulators, state attorneys general, public health advocates and many others.  In the United States, there is broad support for alcohol regulations to keep the public safe.

According to a 2011 national poll conducted for the Center for Alcohol Policy:

  • 77% of Americans support the states’ ability to set alcohol laws and regulations that keep them safe.

  • 83% of Americans agree that state and local laws regarding alcohol regulation should be decided by lawmakers and citizens, not by judges.

  • 84% of Americans agree that, with the overwhelming majority of alcohol sold in the U.S. being manufactured by global corporations, it is more important than ever that states and localities maintain their ability to regulate alcohol.

Read some of what’s being said about the CARE Act:

“I view the CARE Act as a straightforward and reasonable vehicle to ensure that the state-based regulatory system remains intact in the face of those who would prefer little or no oversight for alcohol.”

“As all of us work hard to ensure sensible local alcohol regulations and educational programs remain in place, I urge your support and leadership in gaining swift passage of the CARE Act .”

“When it comes to common sense alcohol laws, we oppose any efforts to weaken local control and oversight. In the face of reckless industry lawsuits intended to sell more alcohol in more places with less local accountability, The CARE Act of 2011 will uphold the states’ ability to maintain smart alcohol policies to reduce the risks of the alcohol-fueled trauma cases we see all too often.”

“The OLBA represents Ohio’s approximately 25,000 independent, licensed retailers that are not only part of the state’s three-tier alcohol system, but we are also on the front lines with consumers in the very communities where we live and work. We support the CARE Act because it will help reaffirm state laws that were drafted by the Ohio legislature — that they find appropriate for the people of Ohio.”

“At a time when health authorities are increasingly concerned about the impacts of underage alcohol consumption in our country, our state authority in this area is at risk from litigation by alcohol interests who want to loosen our state laws simply because they find them inconvenient for the purpose of doing business. To be clear, I believe adults in New Mexico should have wide access to the alcohol products they desire (as we do today). However, that access should be determined by the people and communities in New Mexico and not by a federal court…. I strongly support the intent of H.R. 1161 and urge your support.”

“The Licensed Beverage Association represents package store owners in West Virginia. Our interest in the CARE Act is to advocate for the long-standing, locally accountable alcohol laws passed by West Virginia’s state elected officials…. The CARE Act simply restates that it is Congress’ intent through the 21st Amendment to the Constitution that states have the primary authority to regulate the transportation and sale of alcohol within their borders as they see fit. It is a clear signal to out-of-state interests and the federal courts that they cannot and should not subvert the will of citizens in states like West Virginia.”

“I encourage you to support this legislation to help South Dakota and other states to maintain core powers on state alcohol.”

“In February of 2010, NABCA adopted a resolution stating we ‘…support federal laws, regulations and policies that reaffirm the right of states to regulate alcohol as they deem appropriate.’ In June of 2010, NABCA then adopted another resolution that states we ‘…hereby support Congressional enactment of the Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness (CARE) Act of 2010.’ We remain committed to our support of states’ rights and these resolutions are consistent with that position.

“This bipartisan legislation would provide a clear road map for state officials, as well as the alcohol industry, in setting alcohol policy and would reduce the growing micro-management by the federal courts of alcohol policy.”

“Congress must take the lead and clarify that alcohol is a consumer product unlike any other, and that the state-controlled system of regulation should be preserved… Daily, we see first-hand the negative impact that alcohol abuse can have and we know that community-based approaches to regulating its distribution are effective in limiting its damage. We strongly urge you to support the CARE Act.

“Nothing is more important than healthy, safe kids and stable communities… the CARE Act will play an important role in promoting kids and communities by protecting the integrity of state and local alcohol regulations.

“For nearly eight decades, state governments have held the authority to decide how alcohol is to be sold within their borders. Public health experts agree that this system is essential to protecting children and adults alike from the dangers of alcohol… Unfortunately, the legal basis upon which state and local regulation of alcohol rests is under attack from a barrage of lawsuits filed in recent years. Unless Congress intervenes, state control of alcohol distribution and sales could be significantly undermined or even eliminated. Without proper regulation at a local level, alcohol can become the starting point on a long road of addiction, creating a more serious public health crisis for both the individual and the community.

“This bill [the CARE Act] would help states protect kids and the public at large from the dangers of alcohol. Since prohibition, the states have had the responsibility for regulating the distribution and sale of alcohol. This system has resulted in an appropriate tailoring of laws to suit each state’s tradition, more and needs.

“Having lived in a community, East Lansing, Michigan, where alcohol problems have directly impacted our way of life, I am deeply concerned about the possibility of our states and communities losing their ability to regulate alcohol sales… The CARE Act is much-needed legislation that would preserve the right of states to do what’s right to protect their own communities from the dangers of alcohol.

“This bipartisan legislation will help ensure that states and localities maintain the ability to determine alcohol policy and regulate the distribution and sale of alcohol in their communities. This authority is especially critical for society effectively to regulate access to alcohol by minors.

“I want to preserve states’ rights to decide the appropriate regulation of alcohol within their borders. Most importantly, the bill preserves the status quo on Utah’s unique regulatory regime, and reaffirms the presumed validity of Utah’s laws.”

“Congress has long held the view that alcohol consumption creates a unique public health issue that requires responsible regulation. The 21st amendment was intended to allow states to regulate alcoholic beverages free from federal involvement. In the 75 years since, this system has fostered an orderly marketplace and effectively promoted moderation. In recent years, however, there has been a proliferation of litigation in which this state regulatory authority has been questioned. The Courts are now being asked to interpret what Congress really intended with its actions all those years ago and how it applies to a dynamic marketplace today. The CARE act, which my colleagues in Congress and I recently introduced, is designed to clarify Congress’ original legislative intent and reaffirm our commitment to maintaining an equitable marketplace through the continuation of effective state-based regulation. I recognize that there is a burgeoning wine industry in many states across the country and that in certain instances, state laws present winemakers with challenges to entering the marketplace. It is my hope that as we move forward, we can work with small businesses across the country to assist their productivity and growth; and, in fact, I believe that my co-sponsorship of this legislation will facilitate that goal.”

“The [Ohio Licensed Beverage Association's] OLBA’s interest in the CARE Act is to protect state laws that were drafted by the Ohio legislature. Over years several large suppliers in the United States have challenged individual state laws just because they are different than another law in another state. The OLBA opposes a one size fits all liquor law and supports Ohio’s liquor control system. Individual laws that could come under attack in Ohio include the quota system, recent Sunday sales victories, state agency contracts, prohibitions against quantity discounts and even laws that require distributors to service every account in their territories. When prohibition was repealed, the 21st amendment gave individual states the right to regulate liquor within their borders. In Ohio, the OLBA has been part of the conversation regarding liquor regulations and has been instrumental in drafting laws and rules that work in our state. Ohio laws are designed to strike a balance between a variety of interests including ours as well as other types of retailers, distributors, supplier and the general public. Nothing in the CARE Act would change the world we know, it simply gets federal courts to understand that just because state liquor laws differ, doesn’t mean they are unconstitutional. The only industry truly hurt by the CARE Act is the lawyers who continue to use the federal courts to challenge state liquor laws.”

“WSWA applauds Representative Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) for sponsoring, and Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Howard Coble (R-N.C.) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) for co-sponsoring, H.R. 5034 which seeks to reaffirm and protect the primary authority of the states under the 21st Amendment to the Constitution to regulate alcoholic beverages, and which recognizes that alcohol is different from other consumer products – and, as such, should be treated differently. America’s regulated three-tier system is – hands down – the best beverage alcohol distribution system in the world. It stimulates innovation and competition and provides consumers with unprecedented choice and variety, requiring reasonable and appropriate regulations promoting temperance, ensuring effective state and federal tax collection and creating a safe and orderly market distributing beverage alcohol. It is important that states retain their constitutional power to regulate the distribution of beverage alcohol and are able to fend off litigation, which serves to destabilize or destroy that authority. Although we may oppose direct shipping and self-distribution as a matter of policy, our goal is not to overturn existing state laws. We simply believe the proper forum for resolving legitimate differences over these issues is in the state legislatures – not the courts.”

“[T]his bill in a modest, focused way, provides the proper deference to state liquor laws enacted under the 21st Amendment and imposes the burden of proof on those well funded plaintiffs challenging the laws. Should not every legislative enactment be entitled to this deference? Obviously, because of their unique constitutional status, state liquor laws are entitled to even greater deference. H.R. 5034 will not solve all state challenges. H.R. 5034 does not prevent challenges to state liquor laws; rather it merely shifts the burden where it belongs.”

Read what has been said about the importance of state-based alcohol regulation:

“[A]s the World Health Organization has stated, alcohol is ‘no ordinary commodity’ and thus cannot be treated like a pair of Manolo Blahnik pumps or a Patricia Cornwell paperback…. In fact, the three-tier system of alcohol distribution was put in place precisely because of this product’s special nature. But the powerful multinational corporations who dominate alcohol production … and their retail allies will brook no limit on profits, and work feverishly to deregulate our alcohol control systems through litigation and lobbying. We need to remember this before we drink … deregulation kool-aid.”

“While alcohol laws vary by state, Illinois’ law is viewed as one of the strongest in the nation as it relates to the three-tier system of alcohol distribution. Many observers believe this case and others like it will have a profound impact on the regulation of the industry in Illinois and beyond. While regulation and/or deregulation may be viewed by many through the lenses of what is in the best “competitive interests” of industry, I submit that there are broader aspects of this issue to consider as well. My objective is not to protect wholesalers or hurt producers, but rather to protect the people of my community who are, in many cases, disproportionately overwhelmed with marketing and promotional advertising designed to get them to drink. Additionally, I would express a concern about the direction the industry is going relative to deregulation and its impact on minority ownership at the wholesaler/distributor level. Certainly, there is strong belief in Illinois and I suspect this would be the case elsewhere in our nation, that deregulation or the removal of state regulatory authority of the alcohol industry would have an adverse, negative impact on minority ownership. I would clearly be in opposition to such a move.”

“In order to promote temperance, states can use a variety of laws that work to control alcohol consumption and levy taxes to collect revenue. Giving states primary authority over alcohol also ensures that those attitudes about the product can more directly be reflected. Citizens in my home state of Tennessee feel differently about alcohol than those in New York or Michigan, and the laws reflect that diversity. When policy problems arise around alcohol sale or consumption, states are better equipped to deal with those problems than the federal government. Additionally, having states regulate alcohol helps facilitate an orderly market. The state-based alcohol regulatory system in place today has done a good job of achieving those 21st Amendment goals of promoting temperance and an orderly market.”

“Litigation over state power to regulate alcohol is indeed hotly contested. But that is only because different judges have different judgments about what they think Congress wants in this area. If Congress were to state its views with vivid clarity, that would go a long way toward ending litigation—ending what the New York Times once called the “wine wars.” What’s more, Congressional action in this area would only reinforce important constitutional values. After all, alcohol is the only consumer product to receive special constitutional status—in the form of special recognition of the importance of state authority to regulate alcohol under the 21st Amendment.”

“For over a decade, major retailers and other special interests have executed a systematic legal campaign to deregulate alcohol in favor of the very “one size fits all” structure that the 21st Amendment rejected. This deregulation would effectively destroy our states’ ability to control the sale and distribution of intoxicating liquor. Alarmingly, legal challenges have been filed in over half of the states challenging their alcohol laws or regulations designed to encourage temperance, collect taxes and prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages to minors. We are extremely concerned that alcohol deregulation will make it very difficult for our states to effectively protect the public interest and ensure the safest system of alcohol distribution in the world.”

“We applaud you for calling a Congressional Hearing on this matter and hope that you will strongly support legislation that will bring to a stop the erosion of state alcohol laws by re-enforcing the states’ ability to regulate alcohol as it sees fit.”

“In 1941, Supreme Court Justice [Robert] Jackson stated that liquor is ‘a lawlessness unto itself.’ That was true then and is true today. Alcoholic beverages must be highly regulated. Because of this type of expensive and uncertain litigation, a federal statute is essential to confirm the primacy of state regulation.”

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