Tuesday, February 11, 2014
It Is Still Illegal to Sell Alcohol Without a License
The following is presented as a public service. This is not legal advice, it is general legal information.
It is illegal to sell alcohol without a license.
This is true everywhere in the United States. There are no exceptions.
This keeps coming up because there are many people who collect whiskey. Whiskey is booming right now and so is whiskey collecting. Collectors of anything, from stamps and coins to Shirley Temple (RIP) memorabilia, usually build their collections by buying, selling, and trading with other collectors. That's normal. It's a big part of the fun of collecting.
But if what you collect is an alcoholic beverage, it's also against the law.
I last wrote about this just ten months ago, here. The Facebook page discussed in that post was taken down a few months ago. To protect the folks involved, I won't say more about it. Before that, eBay did a brisk business in whiskey and other alcoholic beverages. That was taken down too.
Laws regarding the possession, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages are entirely up to each state's Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agency to enforce. They have their own enforcement arms, their own investigators. Infractions of the ABC's rules are not crimes as far as the police are concerned. They don't get involved unless the ABC asks for their help. Someone operating an unlicensed bar or selling liquor out of the back of a minivan, or a licensed retailer selling to minors, that's what they care about. Nobody is looking to bust collectors.
But that doesn't make what collectors do legal. It's still illegal. An observation about patterns of enforcement doesn't change the underlying status of the activity. It's still against the law.
Should those laws be updated? Probably. It is hard to see how whiskey collectors do any harm. But beverage alcohol regulations are notoriously difficult to change. Most of them haven't been touched since Prohibition was repealed 80 years ago.
Social media is full of sites for enthusiasts of all kinds, including whiskey. A persistent problem for those sites is people who try to buy or sell whiskey via the site. Social media sites must be very careful about not allowing participants to advocate law-breaking. Sites that try to enable peer to peer collecting activity without doing anything illegal themselves resort to "Fight Club" rules of secrecy. They don't work. There are constantly people who either don't get it or don't care.
Perhaps this post will reach a few of them.