Bill would give USPS permission to ship alcoholic beverages
- Bipartisan legislation expected to be introduced this week, called the USPS Shipping Equity Act, would lift a federal ban that prevents the United States Postal Service from shipping beer, wine, and liquor. The ban has been in effect since 1909, a decade before Prohibition was officially added to the Constitution.
- This is not a blanket repeal, however, as USPS would not be able to ship alcoholic beverages to all states. The bill "would not override or repeal any state law that regulates or outright disallows the shipping of alcohol; it would simply permit the USPS to ship within state-set guidelines, which vary dramatically from state-to-state," Brewbound reported.
- The recipient of the alcohol shipment cannot resell or use the shipped products for other commercial purposes, per the bill's stipulations.
Opening the door for brewers, wineries, and distilleries to have more options for shipping their products could be a great help to the alcoholic beverage industry. Not all states would be included in the lifted ban based on their own laws, such as Alabama, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, which ban direct shipments of out-of-state alcohol to consumers. However, the industry as a whole may see a growth in potential out-of-state markets, which could help craft alcohol producers branch out of their local area and reach a national stage.
Neither the Brewers Association nor the Beer Institute have officially come out for or against the legislation, as both said they want to learn more about the new bill before casting an opinion either way. The National Beer Wholesalers Association, however, did make a statement concerning the bill, saying, "NBWA has long-standing concerns about any legislation that would preempt state authority to regulate alcohol," the organization said. "Legislation that would change the USPS policy on shipping alcohol should be thoroughly reviewed and must ensure that Section 2 of the 21st Amendment is maintained so that states continue to have primary authority over alcohol regulation."
This is hardly the first time that alcohol shipments have been a focus for USPS and legislators, and should this bill not pass, it may not be the last. In 2013 and 2011, USPS dropped hints to Congress that it should consider repealing the century-old ban by adding provisions to bills meant to save the ailing postal service at that time. However, while other measures were passed, the alcohol shipment provision was not included in those deals.
The USPS has been seeking new revenue streams, such as alcohol shipments, to improve its outlook for the future, which has been bleak for several years now. This was compounded by a recent report that USPS posted a net loss of $1.5 billion for the quarter that ran January through March 2015, though that was down from the $1.9 billion net loss it reported for the same quarter the year before.