A federal ban prohibiting the United States Postal Service from shipping beer, wine and liquor would be lifted, should a new bill makes its way through Congress.
U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) is expected to introduce the bipartisan piece of legislation this week. If passed, the USPS Shipping Equity Act would, in her camp’s own words, help “tear down the last vestiges of Prohibition” by allowing the Postal Service to ship alcoholic beverages to states that allow it.
While the bill would provide a new opportunity for brewers, vintners and distillers to reach consumers, it 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. The bill also specifies that the recipient of an alcoholic beverage product may not resell it or use it for other commercial purposes.
Reached by Brewbound, the Brewers Association and the Beer Institute, the industry’s two leading advocacy groups, said they want to get a better understanding of the legislation before taking an official stance.
BA CEO Bob Pease said the organization is “generally supportive of reforms that allow for beer to be shipped to legal drinking age adults,” having worked in the past with other lawmakers on similar provisions. Both the BA and the BI said they hope to talk to Rep. Speier and her staff to better understand her goals with the legislation.
The legislative effort may face some opposition from the National Beer Wholesalers Association, however. In a statement obtained by Brewbound, the NBWA voiced some Constitutional concerns with the soon-to-be proposed bill.
“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.”
Aside from lifting restrictions on the alcohol sector, Rep. Speier claims, in a letter sent to her congressional colleagues, that the bill could also help a struggling Postal Service, which reported a net loss of $1.5 billion in the second quarter of 2015 due in part to exceedingly low mail volumes.
The USPS is unable to take an official stance on the bill, per the letter, but she wrote that that allowing the agency to ship alcoholic beverage products would bring in $50 million in new revenue. Rep. Speier added the bill would also level the competitive disadvantage the federal mail service has next to carrier companies like FedEX and UPS, which can set their own rules and ship booze in accordance with state-by-state regulations. The bill would give retailers that already ship alcoholic products through the mail another option to reach the consumer.
The bill currently has 20 co-sponsors – 16 Democrats and four Republicans – a number of which have also lent their support to the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, a sweeping bill that looks to dramatically cut the federal excise tax rate imposed on beer companies and importers.