A Brewing Debate: Alcohol Direct Shipment Laws and the Twenty-First Amendment
Matthew J. Patterson   |   2002 U. Ill. L. Rev.

Alcohol direct shipment laws exist in many forms. In some cases, these laws prohibit out-of-state producers and retailers from shipping alcohol directly to in-state consumers. In other instances, such laws allow alcohol to be shipped directly to consumers from producers and retailers in another state as long as a reciprocity agreement exists. While proponents of alcohol direct shipment laws cite underage drinking and tax evasion as reasons to keep these laws intact, opponents believe that states have no legitimate regulatory interest in the stream of intrastate alcohol.

At the center of this dispute is the Twenty-first Amendment, which assures that alcohol transportation or importation into any state will not occur in contravention of the laws of that state. As a result of this assurance, a debate has raged over whether state laws governing the intrastate flow of alcohol are exempt from the ambit of the Commerce Clause.

In this note, the author will examine the history of alcohol regulation in the United States and analyze Twenty-first Amendment jurisprudence. This note will then argue that a disassembling of state-sanctioned alcohol distribution plans is not backed by the Twenty-first Amendment or the history encompassing its passage. Finally, the note will argue that striking down alcohol direct shipment laws would produce a national alcohol market, which would be in conflict with the Twenty-first Amendment.

“Although all Americans are guaranteed certain inalienable rights such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, access to wine is not one of them.”