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Saturday, July 20, 2024 | Back issues
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Witnesses Leery of|Feds’ Alcohol Regulation

WASHINGTON (CN) - Federal lawmakers mulled regulating alcohol on Thursday, something that has been left to the states since Prohibition ended in 1933. House members expressed concern over alcohol trade-barriers between states, but also rejected regulatory changes.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," Tennessee Democrat Steve Cohen said of state regulations. "And this one's not broke and it doesn't need fixing." He testified to the House Subcommittee on Courts and Competition as part of a panel of alcohol-drinking lawmakers.

The hearing comes after a 2005 Granholm v. Heald Supreme Court ruling that blocked New York and Michigan from permitting local wineries to ship directly to customers out-of-state if they also barred other wineries from shipping directly into the state.

California Democrat Mike Thompson said that Hawaii used to charge a one-cent tax per gallon on Hawaiian wines, but charged 85 cents for out-of-state wines. And Arkansas had also restricted foreign wine.

Lawmakers consistently said states have shown their reliability in regulating alcohol ever since the prohibition was repealed in 1933, ending the more than decade-long constitutional ban on alcohol nation-wide.

"State regulation of alcohol remains robust," Texas Republican Lamar Smith said.

He said the government has a bad track record of regulating alcohol. "While the ban on alcohol was well intentioned, in practice it led to flaunting of the laws," Smith said. "While Prohibition was meant to promote public safety, the proliferation of illegal alcohol distribution through organized criminal enterprises led to an increase in alcohol-relate violence."

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