Alcohol laws and policies reflect the mix of cultures and attitudes of the people in a given state or community. The complexity and frequently contradictory nature of the alcohol control laws accentuates the lack of consensus around alcohol regulation and use.
Nowhere is the push and pull in alcohol law and policy more visible than in the various advocacy groups formed around particular positions.
What is a legislator to do in deciding how to cast a vote? How should the judge make a decision when alcohol is a factor in a case? To what extent should the policy maker try to infuse science in carrying out the policy responsibilities of the executive branch?
When looking at alcohol laws, it may help defuse some of the more rancorous conflict over alcohol issues by recalling the history of human experience with the government regulation of alcohol. This is not a new debate. Only the science has advanced.
The regulation of alcohol price by the government was first put into writing by the Code of Hammurabi. Alcohol has been source of government revenue in the United States since colonial times. Almost as long, alcohol has been a source of political dissention. One of the first examples is the Whiskey Rebellion where the western farmers saw the federal excise tax as discrimination by the eastern part of the country against the new western communities. Some things change and some do not but when it comes to alcohol, the laws and policies are as diverse and constantly changing as the communities across the country. This diversity is protected by the clear reservation of the power to the states to regulate the transportation and use of alcohol within the states. There is no specific constitutionally supported use of federal power regarding alcohol in the states except, arguably, to tax it.
- Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
- 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.
- Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several states, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the states by the Congress.
The aim of this web site is to facilitate the use of alcohol research to inform the debates about alcohol laws and policies. If you would like to see a specific alcohol related issue addressed here, please let us know.