A few months ago, a woman was stopped driving through Limestone County, Alabama, and charged with transporting prohibited liquor, raising the question of what the hell? “Transporting Prohibited Liquor”? Yes—as explained by this item, written apparently in response to a lot of people’s confusion, if you drive more than five gallons of beer from Tennessee to Alabama (taxes on beer are lower in Tennesse), you can be punished by one to six years in prison. Granted, OK, this woman had 15 cases of Bud Light 40s in her car, but on the other hand, why can’t I have 15 cases of Bud Light 40s in my car?
America’s got a pretty bizarre attitude towards booze—you could call it puritanical, but actually, the Puritans got drunk as shit. The Arabella, a ship that carried a bunch of them to Boston in 1630, had three times as much beer as water onboard, and also 10,000 gallons of wine (good thing their voyage didn’t take them through Alabama). Back then, alcohol was considered safer than water, and the colonists started brewing beer basically as soon as they got off the ship, and alcohol played a huge role in early American history: The rum industry was huge in 18th-century New England; Washington and Jefferson brewed their own beer; a bunch of farmers fought the government over taxes on whiskey; Andrew Jackson hosted a legendarily debauched inauguration party in 1829 that left the White House trashed.
Running up against this American tradition of getting loaded is America’s tradition of being a bunch of prudish prigs. Post-prohibition, no one really wants to ban alcohol outright, but the country is dotted with “dry counties” where you can’t legally buy alcohol, and some states have anti-alcohol laws that paradoxically seem like they were written while legislators were off their faces, as they say in Australia. Utah has different liquor regulations governing restaurants, beer-only restaurants, clubs, reception centers, and airport lounges, and also calls any beer with an alcohol content higher than 3.2 percent “heavy beer,” because Mormons are pussies. In Knoxville, Tennessee, strip clubs can’t sell alcohol, and dancing in bars is forbidden unless there’s a space specifically set aside for it (and, of course, the law stipulates exactly how many square feet your bar’s dance floor must be). In Pennsylvania, supermarkets, and convenience stores can’t sell beer at all. [Correction: Some supermarkets can sell beer in Pennsylvania.] Then there are all the laws that ban alcohol sales on Christmas Day, which serve as a reminder of just how many alcohol regulations are motivated by religion—if the Jewish Sabbath falls on Christmas Day, and a Jew in Indiana needs to pick up some Manischewitz for dinner, well, he’s shit out of luck, isn’t he?
Then there’s Connecticut, where not only are alcohol sales prohibited on Sunday (a fairly common state law), there’s also a government-mandated minimum price for bottles of alcohol that helps prop up small businesses that can’t compete with larger stores that can buy from wholesalers in bulk—and, incidentally, makes buying alcohol in Connecticut fucking expensive. Since the state is so tiny, some residents are in the habit of driving out of it to buy liquor; some estimate that the state loses $570 million a year in alcohol sales as a result of its price fixing. There’s now an effort to repeal the minimum pricing laws and, y’know, actually have a competitive free market for alcohol, but small store owners are protesting it of course, because if the government was basically making it impossible for other businesses to compete with yours you’d protest too. Still, if the only real argument for the government not treating alcohol like literally every other product is, “It’ll fuck over a few businesses that wouldn’t exist without the support of the government,” that doesn’t sound like a very good reason, does it? Hopefully, Connecticutians—or whatever you call someone from Connecticut—will soon be able to buy liquor at reasonable prices without driving to Massachusetts. Maybe somewhere down the line Alabamans will be able to transport 40s without the Man shutting them down too.
Previously - Why Is It Illegal to Have Your Ass Out?