On May 25, Representatives Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) and Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), along with eight other original co-sponsors, introduced the United States Postal Service (USPS) Shipping Equity Act, bipartisan legislation that would allow the USPS to ship alcohol (beer, wine, and spirits) in states where it is currently legal to do so.
According to Rep. Newhouse’s press release, this legislation would end the Prohibition-era ban that prevented the USPS from shipping alcoholic beverages to consumers, allowing it to ship directly from licensed producers and retailers to consumers over the age of 21 in accordance with state and local laws at the delivery location. This bill is critical in leveling the playing field and increasing consumer and manufacturer choice while bringing in millions of dollars in revenue for the USPS.
Brewers Association (BA) President and CEO Bob Pease applauded the legislation. “Small and independent breweries produce hundreds of styles of beer, but due to distributor consolidation, there are fewer opportunities to get their products to consumers. Direct-to-consumer shipping is a critical way for these businesses to make their low-volume products accessible to the people who want to buy them. Since 11 states and Washington, D.C. already allow breweries to ship beer directly to consumers, the USPS Shipping Equity Act is commonsense legislation that provides those breweries with another way to access the market.”
Allowing the USPS to compete in this market would also generate much-needed revenue streams. Estimates suggest that the USPS could gain $180 million annually through the shipping of beverage alcohol where permitted by state and local laws.
The USPS Shipping Equity Act supports consumer choice and offers producers—many of whom are in rural or remote areas—the opportunity to reach their adult customers who may otherwise be unable to purchase the product locally or travel to acquire it. As such, direct-to-consumer shipping serves as an important complement to the traditional three-tier system of beverage alcohol distribution.
The USPS Shipping Equity Act would not impact state and local excise tax collection and regulation of beverage alcohol, nor does it make any changes to excise tax collection or inhibit state and local authority in regulating beverage alcohol. The legislation also provides strong safeguards to prevent underage consumption of alcohol by minors. Safeguards like identification checks are critical to prevent minors from purchasing or obtaining beverage alcohol, regardless of how it is purchased.
Shipping is a viable and safe way for breweries to get a broad variety of their products to market. As alcohol shipping laws become commonplace in more states, consumers, small and independent breweries, and the postal service would all benefit if the USPS could ship alcohol in states where it is legal to do so.