Supreme Court Allows Interstate Wine Shipments...I'll Drink To That
In an article I wrote in December, I argued that the Supreme Court should rule that Constitutional prohibition against states' interfering with interstate commerce should trump the wording in the 21st Amendment (which repealed the prohibition of alcohol.)
I'm pleased to report that the Supremes have ruled that way. Although I wish the vote had been more convincing than 5-4, any victory against the long-term interference in interstate commerce by governments (Federal and State) is worthy of celebration.
The vote count and coalition was surprising, with Scalia, Kennedy and three more liberal Justices voting in the majority, and with Renquist, Thomas, O'Connor and Stevens dissenting with rather puzzling rationales.
Stevens said that the intent of the 21st Amendment was to put alcohol in a special category which would not be subject to Federal commerce protection. I understand how one could read the Amendment that way, although I think his conclusion is wrong. His argument is very dangerous, implying that it's possible to override commerce protections on a case by case basis, something many special interests would be most interested in doing if allowed.
More strange was Justice Thomas' contention that this ruling will make all alcohol laws more difficult to enforce. That one makes absolutely no sense to me. Then he makes the Orwellian-sounding statement that "State officials can better enforce their regulations by inspecting the premises and attaching the property of in-state entities." Thomas usually has the sense to just go along with Scalia. I wish he had this time.
But enough with the dissenters. Justice Kennedy's majority opinion is absolutely right. In it he says "The aim of the 21st Amendment was to allow states to maintain an effective and uniform system for controlling liquor by regulating its transportation, importation and use. The amendment did not give states the authority to pass non-uniform laws in order to discriminate against out-of-state goods -- a privilege they had not enjoyed at any earlier time."
The supporters of laws prohibiting importation of alcohol were blatant shills for in-state winery protectionism. Arguing that minors are going to mail order a case of pinot noir, collect it from UPS a week later, and then go get drunk is far from believable.
One line from the majority opinion is quite interesting: "If a state chooses to allow direct shipment of wine, it must do so on even-handed terms." The implication is that a state might choose not to allow direct shipments. An organization in Michigan is now urging a ban on internet sales of wine in the state. They say they will ask the legislature to pass a law preventing Michigan wineries from shipping within the state! It's hard to imagine that this would pass, but if they get enough money on their side we may one day see the next battle in this war.
I encourage everyone to keep an eye on the great work done by the Institute for Justice. I contribute to them every year and you might want to consider doing the same thing. They were the main reason this case was won, and they're leading the battle against eminent domain abuse such as the Kelo v. New London case which the Supreme Court has before them at this time.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Rossputin on 05/16/05 at 05:35:22 pm . Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0.|