In the 1939 movie You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man, W. C. Fields demands to know “What contemptible scoundrel stole the cork from my lunch?!” If asked today, the answer might well be Congress. Dozens of Members are backing legislation that would allow states to prohibit consumers from making interstate purchases of wine.
Proponents of the bill claim that their motives are as pure as a fine pinot—i.e., to secure state sovereignty. But the proposed Community Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act is actually a cynical attempt to sidestep a 2005 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that struck down such wine sale prohibitions in Michigan and New York. In Granholm v. Heald, a majority of justices wisely held that banning out-of-state wineries from shipping directly to Michigan consumers violated the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.
Alas, alcohol wholesalers—the middlemen in the vast majority of wine sales—are pressing lawmakers to neutralize the ruling. The brazenly titled “CARE Act” would rob wineries of their Commerce Clause protections, thereby giving states a free hand to ban interstate sales to consumers.
The 18th Amendment was repealed in 1933. Legislators thirsting for yet more power may be trying to bring it back, but we don’t need another prohibition.
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