You walk up to the counter with your box of goodies in hand. You hand the box to the postal worker to get weighed and shipped and then comes THE question “Does the box contain any alcohol?” You cringe, your palms get sweaty and you hesitate for a second thinking about the beers in this box. You don’t want to lie because well you’re a decent moral person but on the other hand what’s in the box is JUST BEER no biggie right? Wrong! Shipping beer via the United States Postal Service is against the law and could potentially land you behind bars with Nasty Nate and the Squirrel Master.
Why can’t you ship beer via USPS?
Section 217 of 18 U.S.C. 1716(f) of the Act of March 4, 1909, ch. 321, 35 Stat. 1131 states “All spirituous, vinous, malted, fermented, or other intoxicating liquors of any kind are nonmailable and shall not be deposited in or carried through the mails.”
This legislation stems from the temperance movement of the 1800’s and was a major victory for those looking to ban alcohol consumption here in the United States. Fast forward 106 years and even though the Prohibition and the Temperance Movement is long gone, the bill still remains the law of the land. Why? I don’t know for certain but one can guess its partially due to the deep pockets of big breweries and/or the states’ power to regulate alcohol commerce and collect taxes from that commerce.
In 1920 the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment banning alcoholic beverages. With that came the following text in Section 2: “The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.” this granted the states specific power to regulate alcohol being shipped to their state and is the reason why every state has different alcohol shipping laws.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier
With the United States Postal Services(USPS) struggling to stay alive and the rise of craft beer, Congresswoman Jackie Speier looks to reverse the antiquated law and open the door for shipping of expensive beer mail through the USPS. On July 14, 2015 the image above was posted on her facebook page along with the text “Ever want to send wine, beer, and liquor through the mail? I’m introducing a bill that would allow the U.S. Postal Service to do so—expanding consumer choice and keeping the Post Office solvent in the process.”
Since beer trading is currently a thriving market, it makes sense to repeal the section of the 21st Amendment that bans mailing of alcohol. It’s happening through UPS and FedEx why not give the struggling USPS a chance at the market. Beer mail is very heavy, and mailing two six packs could run around $20 and sometimes more depending on where you are shipping it to. I have had packages cost $30+ when shipping from New Jersey to California.
What about wine though?
Wine was granted a reprieve in the 2005 Supreme Court case of Granholm v. Heald which allowed the states to regulate if wineries could ship directly to consumers. Since then various states have enacted their own laws surrounding shipment of alcohol, which is why both UPS and FedEx have been able to mail alcohol direct to consumers without breaking the law. However this case specifically highlighted wine and not other forms of alcohol.
I reached out to Congresswoman Speier’s team for clarification and additional text but the only information I received back was that this was not the same bill she submitted in 2013. Hopefully when they finalize the legislation, we will have more information on what the actual legislation involves and how it directly impacts us. Until then beer traders nation wide have a tiny glimmer of hope to cling to, I for one have already started drooling for some New Glarus Belgian Red beer :) cheers