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Published: Tue, 25 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Tue, 25 Oct 2016 05:00:43 -0400


Brickbat: A Big Furor

Wed, 14 Sep 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) The owner of a pub in Bavaria faces up to four years in prison after investigators found bottles of Führer Wine, with images of Adolf Hitler on the labels, in his pub. Officers say the man has no links to the far-right. He says he received the wine as gift and thought it was funny. The wine is part of a series of wines from an Italian winery with historical images on the label.

Alcohol Prohibition Was a Dress Rehearsal for the War on Drugs

Thu, 25 Aug 2016 14:10:00 -0400

"The war on alcohol and the war on drugs were symbiotic campaigns," says Harvard historian Lisa McGirr, author of The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State. "Those two campaigns emerged together, [and] they had the same shared...logic. Many of the same individuals were involved in both campaigns."


Did alcohol prohibition of the 1920s ever really come to an end, or did it just metastasize into something far more destructive and difficult to abolish—what we casually refer to as "the war on drugs?" McGirr argues that our national ban on booze routed around its own repeal via the 21st Amendment. Ultimately, Prohibition transformed into a worldwide campaign against the drug trade.

The ties between drug and alcohol prohibition run deep. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) was established in 1930, only three years prior to Prohibition's repeal. The FBN employed many of the same officials as the Federal Bureau of Prohibition. And both shared institutional spaces as independent entities within the U.S. Treasury Department. "In some ways," observes McGirr, "the war never ended."

Runs 12:42 minutes.

Edited by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Jim Epstein and Meredith Bragg.

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D.C. Gov Goes After a Piece of Pub-Crawl Profits

Thu, 18 Aug 2016 08:05:00 -0400

Under a new city regulation, promoters of organized bar-hopping in the District of Columbia must register with the city, pay a $500 licensing fee, submit detailed litter-management and security plans, and promote public transportation to revelers. Pub crawling—the practice of going between myriad bars in a small geographic area over the course of one day or evening—has long been a popular recreational pursuit for friend groups, but in recent years more organized, themed crawls have become popular in cities like D.C., giving rise to roving bands of drunk Santas, Shamrock-adorned ex-frat boys, the tastefully undead, white girls wearing sombreros, Miller Lite-wielding superheroes, etc. Sometimes these are organized by bars and restaurants themselves, sometimes by third-party promoters. But "although opposition to bar crawls because of noise, litter, crowd control, and public intoxication are nothing new...efforts to rein them have ramped up in the past year," according to the blog Barred in D.C., which covers "DC bar news and happenings." Until this year, the promoters of pub crawls merely had to register (for free) with the city's Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) if 200 or more people were expected and bars would be offering drink specials. But in January, the ABRA approved "emergency regulations" for D.C. pub crawls, which the City Council subsequently approved for good. Under the new regulations, which took effect August 3, people are banned from hosting pub crawls on popular drinking holidays such as July 4th, Halloween, and New Year's Eve. Any bars or businesses that wish to host a pub crawl must pay $500 annually for a "pub crawl license," as well as receive approval from the ABRA Board for each individual event if 200 or more participants are expected. In order to get approval, the pub-crawl organizer must submit an application at least 45 days in advance, submit a "litter management plan" for approval by the D.C. Department of Public Works, show ABRA proof of a signed contract with and payment to a litter removal company, provide ABRA with a "security plan" that details how organizers plan to curb underage drinking; and receive the blessing of area police. During the crawl itself, an organizer must be present at all times and must not consume alcohol. Organizers must also post operational and security plans for the event where they are visible to participants and provide participants with literature on responsible drinking. Participating bars, meanwhile, cannot play host to pub crawlers from more than one group in one night. And that's still not all: The city has also decided to regulate how pub crawls can be advertised. From now on, all D.C. pub-crawl marketing materials must come with the warning "you must be 21 or older to participate" and contain statements encouraging the use of public transportation. In one new regulation, the D.C. government has managed to compel speech, discourage economic activity, thwart the independent organizing of pub crawls, and extort money from private businesses. Oh, and (of course) provide a bigger roles for regulators and law enforcers. Businesses found to be serving rogue pub-crawlers or participating in an unlicensed pub crawl could be fined, permanently barred from participating in pub crawls, or even have their liquor licenses revoked.[...]

The System Really Is Rigged: City Officials Bend Booze, Ridesharing Rules During DNC, RNC

Tue, 26 Jul 2016 07:18:00 -0400

During the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia this week, select watering holes are enjoying a reprieve from some of the state's strict liquor laws and Uber X drivers are out and proud.  For convention week, Philly bars, restaurants, hotels, and event spaces were allowed to apply for permits granting them the privilege to serve thirsty politicos until 4 a.m.—last call is usually 2 a.m. The DNC host committee negotiated this late-night privilege for local businesses, payed the one-time application fee, and helped the city's Liquor Control Board review applications. At least 20 Philly venues were granted permission to stay open late.  Contra the regular rules, venues will also be able to serve wine and spirits from non-state sources from July 25-28. Generally, they must purchases these from pricey state-run stores. The state said the rule change allows venues to serve alcohol that has been donated and for out-of-towners to host events featuring booze from their home states.  Cleveland saw similar rule-bending when the Republican National Convention (RNC) came to town last week. More than 200 venues applied for a temporary extension of drinking hours from 2 a.m. until 4 a.m. These waivers were made possible by a January 2016 state law saying cities hosting "major events" could ask the Ohio Division of Liquor Control for a temporary out from the usual alcohol rules. For the RNC, individual businesses in and around Cleveland had to apply for extensions by March 21; those that were picked were vetted by local police and sheriff departments before having their info submitted to Liquor Control, which issued waivers in June.   It's not just booze getting a special dispensation during convention time. Earlier this month, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf approved a bill allowing ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft to operate in Philadelphia throughout the summer. Until recently, Uber X drivers could be found in Philly, but they were operating only semi-legally—city transit authorities even allegedly conducted stings on Uber X drivers.  Pennsylvania lifted anti-ridesharing rules for Philadelphia just in time for the Democratic convention. Under the approval, companies must pay 1 percent of gross receipts from fares to the city Parking Authority, which will then turn over two-thirds of this money to Philadelphia schools.   Kudos to Cleveland and Philadelphia for being adaptable and allowing temporary modifications that help convention-goers get around and get drunk. But if these cities can handle ridesharing and 4 a.m. last-calls at a time when tens-of-thousands of out-of-towners have descended, mightn't they be able to handle them when the hubbub dies down, too? Of course, for the DNC and RNC, we have powerful interests pressuring officials to suspend their nanny-statism for the common good. At most other times, we see pressure going the other way, with taxi cartels, state liquor agencies, and others invested in the status quo. The situations in Cleveland and Philadelphia are a good reminder that when it comes to things like occupational licensing, zoning laws, liquor regulations, and the like, "protecting public health/safety/morals" is very often code for making sure the system is rigged in the right way. [...]

State Beer Laws Continue Slow Creep in Right Direction

Sat, 16 Jul 2016 07:36:00 -0400

Every year, typically during the summer months, many state laws that were passed during earlier state legislative sessions take effect. Some repeal bad old laws. Others add to the mix. I've written about the impact of these state laws on beer brewers, sellers, and consumers, most recently here and here, where in the latter piece I noted that a new crop of laws demonstrated progress but showed just "how far we have to go to make sure brewers, restaurants, other sellers, and consumers alike have all the choices they want." This summer, with many changes on the books, seems as good a time as any for an update. Ohio recently lifted its ban on many sales of beers containing more than 12 percent alcohol. In Colorado, a new law, which went into effect this month but won't take effect until next year, will eliminate many restrictions on grocery sales of beer (along with wine and liquor). Currently, Colorado grocers may sell so-called "near beer," or beer that contains up to 3.2 percent alcohol, at each of their locations in the state. But they can only sell actual beer that people want to drink, along with wine and liquor, at one location each in the state. Under the new law, grocers will be able to sell beer, wine, and liquor at each of their stores in the state. If that were the end of it, this would be a great law. But the compromise law contains significant catches. The gradual deregulation under the law won't take full effect until 2037, when many Coloradans who haven't yet been born are old enough to drink. Until then, grocers will have to be content with a law that abolishes the 3.2 percent requirement in 2019, and allows for an increase from one location selling liquor to five immediately and to twenty locations in 2032. That means many consumers who frequent grocers like Safeway will be left with fewer choices for decades. The law, which is too much change for some and too little for others, is likely to be challenged, amended, or both in the coming years. The push to end the 3.2 percent requirement in Colorado, and a similar effort in Oklahoma, may also resonate in Utah, one of a few "near-beer" states remaining. With fewer and fewer states clinging to arcane near-beer rules, there's some belief brewers may choose to eliminate production of 3.2% beers altogether. Some fear that would leave Utah, which generally prohibits sales of beer greater than 3.2 oercent alcohol in groceries and convenience stores, with empty store shelves and thousands of lost jobs.  Another state with changes underway is Missouri, which recently expanded retail options for beer sold in growlers.  That's a good thing for craft brewers, consumer, and stores alike. The state also passed a law that lets brewers lease coolers to grocers. The law was supported by large brewers and opposed by craft brewers, who fear they'll be squeezed out of the beer aisle by larger brewers that can afford to buy the coolers and place them (stocked with their own beers) in stores. If the law proves as bad as the state's craft beer industry fears, the upside is that it sunsets in 2020, while the growler law, which should benefit craft brewers, contains no such provision. Two good laws also failed to pass in Missouri. Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed bills that would have "allow[ed] alcohol sales on smaller boats and one permitting people attending events in stadiums to order drinks on mobile apps." Change is also coming to some farmers markets. A new law in New Hampshire will allow beer sampling at farmers markets in the state beginning next month. But a Delaware bill that would have done largely the same in that state was defeated this month. Innumerable bad laws remain on the books, including North Carolina's cap on craft brewers' distribution, to name just one. This sampling of recent changes (and stagnation) in beer laws around the country shows we're left largely where we began. Some welcome deregulation has taken place. Some reform efforts failed. And countless [...]

The Hillbilly Epidemiologists

Tue, 05 Jul 2016 11:39:00 -0400

(image) Jamaica Ginger Paralysis was one of the nastier byproducts of Prohibition. Jamaica Ginger, a patent remedy, contained alcohol, and the feds eventually realized that people were using it to get drunk. So the government demanded that the drug's makers change their formula. The new recipe tasted terrible, so some manufacturers tried to circumvent the rules by adding an ingredient that turned out to be a neurotoxin. By 1930, the resulting set of symptoms was starting to show up, including a partial paralysis that prevented people from walking normally.

Doctors eventually identified the source of the problem. But before they figured out what was going on, the culprit had already been identified on several "hillbilly" and "race"—that is, country and blues—records. Clark Stooksbury, drawing on the work of the late pharmacologist John Morgan, tells the tale in The American Conservative. Here's an excerpt:

Morgan speculated to Dan Baum that "no other incident has inspired as much popular music as the jake-walk epidemic."...The most likely reason for the large number of songs is that the category of people who were recording roots music records around 1930 overlapped with that of people who were looking for ways to get drunk during Prohibition—mostly male, both black and white, and often economically marginal. Morgan didn't report on which songs were works of journalism carved in wax and which were the work of memoirists, though it is a good bet that Tommy Johnson's work falls into the latter category. But Morgan did note that most of the songs were "devoid of the sentimentality and moralizing that are an integral part of most narratives of tragedy in American ballads recorded commercially."

"Jake Walk Blues" by the Allen Brothers is indeed devoid of sentimentality, moralizing, or self pity on the part of the sufferer. The song features a changing point of view from that of the shiftless jake sufferer to that of his woman, who is lacking in sympathy: "Listen here, Papa, can't you see, you can't drink jake and get along with me. You're a jake walkin' papa with the jake walk blues; I'm a red hot mama that you can't afford to lose." Alas, her man won't change—shiftlessness runs in the family: "My daddy was a gambler and a drunkard too; if he was living today, he'd have the jake walk too. When I die, you can have my hand; I'm gonna take a bottle of jake to the Promised Land."

To read the rest of Stooksbury's story, go here. To hear the Allen Brothers' song, dig in:

src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0">

Oklahoma City Cops Say Infused Liquor Is a Crime

Mon, 27 Jun 2016 06:30:00 -0400

The Pump, a bar in Oklahoma City, used to be known for Bloody Mary cocktails featuring vodka infused with flavors such as bacon, garlic, pickles, and jalapenos. That was before the bar's manager, Colin Grizzle, was arrested last April for mixing those ingredients into distilled spirits, which according to Oklahoma City police is a clear violation of state law. Now The Pump's owner, Ian McDermid, is asking the state's Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission (ABLE) to decide whether the cops are right. "You should see the look on people's faces, the laughs, when you say my manager went to county lockup for three days because we put strips of bacon inside a bottle of vodka," McDermid told the Oklahoma City Journal Record. But to the Oklahoma City Police Department, it's no laughing matter. "They found bottles of alcohol were being emptied, contents put in the liquor and [the liquor] put back into the bottle," MSgt. Gary Knight told KOKH, the local Fox station. "Obviously this is a violation of law. You cannot pour alcohol out and pour anything back into the bottle then serve it. You simply cannot do that. Regardless of what you're putting in it, even if it's just water." Knight is referring to Title 37, Section 584 of the Oklahoma Statutes, which says "no holder of a mixed beverage...license shall refill with any substance a container which contained any alcoholic beverage on which the tax levied by Section 553 of this title has been paid." Violations are punishable by up to six months in jail. It seems unlikely that legislators meant to ban liquor infused with other flavors, which is the very basis of a "mixed beverage." In an interview with KFOR, the NBC station in Oklahoma City, Brett Behenna, a local defense attorney, argued that police are misapplying the law. "If you were to change the alcohol that's in there, change its content, either decrease it, dilute it with water, some other substance, that would be in violation of the statute," Behenna said.  "When it says 'refill,' that seems to connotate changing it with some other kind of liquid, and I don't think that happened in this case." John Maisch, a former ABLE attorney, has asked the commission to address the issue. "If the restaurants are doing something unlawful, then they need to be notified that it's unlawful," Maisch told The Journal Record. "There are dozens of restaurants throughout the state of Oklahoma that are infusing drinks, so if it's illegal then someone has neglected to tell them." McDermid said he is losing some of his brunch business to competitors who continue to serve drinks featuring infused vodka. Customers "ask for it every brunch, and they're always disappointed," he said. McDermid nevertheless does not plan to infuse again unless he gets permission from regulators. "We are seeking clarification from the ABLE commission as to whether infusing spirits is legal and what method of infusion is acceptable," he told KFOR. "We simply want to play by the rules, we just need to know what the rules are." Lest you think this sort of arbitrary cocktail meddling is limited to benighted locations such as Oklahoma, which has some of the strictest liquor laws in the country, California regulators also have been known to take a dim view of flavor-infused spirits. California law prohibits bars from engaging in "rectification," defined as "any process or procedure whereby distilled spirits are cut, blended, mixed or infused with any ingredient, which reacts with the constituents of the distilled spirits and changes the character and nature or standards of identity of the distilled spirits." [Thanks to Dan Dunlany for the tip.][...]

Chicago Cubs Blast New Restrictions on Team's Ability to Sell Alcohol

Fri, 24 Jun 2016 15:50:00 -0400


The Chicago City Council approved an ordinance Tuesday that will allow the Chicago Cubs to sell certain alcoholic beverages at an outdoor plaza next to Wrigley Field. But before you get too excited, baseball fans, know that the decision comes with a plethora of rules and regulations—and the Cubs organization is none too pleased about their final shape.

The ordinance only permits vendors to sell beer and wine, and those drinks can only be purchased while there is an event at the stadium or plaza and cannot be consumed away from these locations.

Another restriction is a limit on the number of non-baseball events the plaza can hold: twelve, with no more than five of them being concerts. A permit is required for each, and only those with tickets to the event can access the open common.

Finally, plaza events cannot be held after 9 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays during the school year. This year, that is a period of 283 days.

To borrow from the late sportscaster Harry Caray, holy cow.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the ordinance was a compromise between the Cubs and those who live around the ballpark, adding that "the City of Chicago will be better off as a result of all sides coming together."

But Cubs spokesman Julian Green sharply criticized the rules: "What's been regarded as a compromise puts in motion a bizarre set of parameters which further restricts us from operating the plaza as an asset that's accessible to the entire community," he said in a statement.

Green also said the new rules regarding concerts could violate a contract between the Cubs and the city from 2013, when the team's owners launched a $750 million project to renovate Wrigley Field and the surrounding area.

The Cubs are right to call these new rules, which force the Cubs organization to maneuver around a series of obstacles to providing guests a good time (the sole reason for the team's existence!), bizarre. Moreover, there's a bootleggers-and-baptists aspect to the move: Local bar owners voiced concerns earlier this month regarding the possibility that the plaza might sell beer at lower prices than they do.

Thankfully, the ordinance is only in place for three years, giving both the Cubs and local residents the opportunity to draft an actual compromise.

Winery Fights Utah's Laughably Awful 'Zion Curtain' Rule

Sat, 11 Jun 2016 08:00:00 -0400

Since 2010, The Hive Winery, in Layton, Utah, has used local fruits and honey to create its award-winning fruit wines. The Hive has also demonstrated a unique penchant for stinging the powers that be. In a state where Mormonism dominates, The Hive produces two cherry wines, the polygamy-themed "SisterWives" and "Bishop's Daughter," the label of which shows a topless, tattooed blonde woman in a tub above an entreaty to "give this cherry a try!" Recently, the winery decided to take on Utah's Zion curtain, a mandatory "7-foot-2-inch opaque barrier that newer restaurants must have in bar areas so children [and anyone shorter than Greg Ostertag or Mark Eaton] can't see alcoholic beverages being mixed or poured." The Zion curtain, which gets its name from Mormon scripture, "forces many restaurants to erect physical barriers between customers and bartenders," I wrote last year. "The reasoning? Elected officials in Utah fear that 'letting the public see drinks being prepared would lead to more alcohol sales and more alcohol consumption.'" In an act reminiscent of anti-communist graffiti painted on the Berlin Wall, Jay Yahne, who owns The Hive, has turned the tool of state oppression, his winery's unwelcome Zion curtain, into a canvas for bold protest against that oppression. In large type, the message on Hive Winery's Zion curtain says Utah's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is "Doing As Bishop Commands," a reference to what he sees as the church's entanglement with the state. Yahne told Salt Lake City's Fox affiliate that ""those in Utah who don't believe the Mormon church controls what is done in Utah... are naive." The winery also uses the space to promote one of its own wines, the aptly named "Zion Curtain." Yahne says he's simply exercising his First Amendment right. The alcohol control folks haven't yet challenged that right (at least as pertains to Yahne's protest). The Zion curtain has been controversial since it was adopted last decade. Polls have shown Mormon and non-Morman Utahns alike oppose the Zion curtain. A bill that would have torn down the curtains, sponsored by Utah State Sen. Jim Dabakis (D-Salt Lake City), which he's labeled "weird," "awkward," "annoying," and "miserable," failed to pass this year.  (I agree with Dabakis, though I've preferred "sheer idiocy.") Instead, lawmakers will "study" the issue. Previous efforts to rescind the 2009 law have also fallen short. Mormon Church leaders, who don't imbibe, perhaps not surprisingly, don't see the Zion curtain as a big deal for those who do. "How important is it to see your drink being made?" asks a 2014 Mormon Church video defending the Zion curtain. "Does it really matter, as long as you get what you ordered?" Left unsaid, of course, is that the only way to see if you've gotten exactly what you ordered—to determine whether you're the person who took your top-shelf order instead poured you from the rail—is to see it being made. "It's an absurd law and I'm glad to see the winery protesting it," said Jacob Grier, the author of Cocktails on Tap: The Art of Mixing Spirits and Beer, who also tends bar in Portland, Oregon, and is a frequent Reason contributor. "Watching cocktails being prepared is a point of interest for drinkers, and more importantly, it's a spur to education. I've had countless conversations with guests that begin with them asking what I'm making or what's in a bottle they've never seen before. Those interactions encourage them to widen their horizons and try new things." This is an important point that appears largely to have been lost so far in debates over the Zion curtain. Beyond legitimate concerns that the person pouring your drink could either be shorting you (by pouring you a lesser tipple than you paid for) or hurting you (by adding something harmful into your drink), the Zion curtain harms the art and ae[...]

A Little Bit of Wine Freedom in Pennsylvania

Thu, 09 Jun 2016 14:40:00 -0400

(image) Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed legislation this week that will permit, among other things, grocery stores that sell beer to sell wine as well. Currently, hard liquor and wines can only be bought in state-owned and state-operated "Wine & Spirits" stores.

The new legislation will go into effect in 60 days, and will also permit restaurants and hotels to sell up to four bottles of wine to-go, permit Pennsylvania residents to have wine shipped directly to their homes, permit gas stations to sell six-packs, allow stores, state-owned and otherwise, to open on state holidays and to remain open longer on Sundays, and permit state-owned stores to engage in "flexible pricing" for "special discounts and sales."

"This historic legislation is a tremendous leap into bringing Pennsylvanian into the 21st century," said Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai, who sponsored the legislation. "This privatization bill will bring consumers the added choice and convenience they have been asking for since Prohibition."

Complete privatization, of course, would require the state to relinquish its liquor monopoly and get out of the liquor business altogether, something it has been in since the end of prohibition. Seventeen states exercise monopoly control over at least some sorts of alcohol.

Supporters of the monopoly system hopes these reforms will help keep it in place. "Making smart changes at the state's Fine Wine and Good Spirits Stores will also help to maintain thousands of existing jobs and increase revenue to begin closing our huge budget gap," said Democratic State Rep. Paul Costa.

The previous governor, Republican Tom Corbett, tried to push the issue of liquor privatization, getting some legislation to move in 2013, but was defeated in his re-election the following year by Wolf. 61 percent of Pennsylvania residents supported ending government sale and distribution of alcohol in a 2013 poll.

You can offer suggestions for good wine delivery for Pennsylvania residents who can enjoy it legally now in the comments.

Michigan High School Student Sues Over Warrantless Breathalyzer Test

Wed, 08 Jun 2016 14:10:00 -0400


A high school student in Grosse Ile Township, Michigan, filed a lawsuit in federal court Monday after a police officer cited her for refusing to take a Breathalyzer test without a search warrant.

Casey Guthrie is challenging a local ordinance and a state law that allow officers to perform breath tests on those under 21 if they have a reasonable cause. Under the Michigan Liquor Control Code, those who refuse to undergo the test are cited for a civil infraction and may be ordered to pay a fine of no more than $100.

The lawsuit comes out of an incident in May, when Detective Ken Pelland pulled over a vehicle Guthrie was riding in. Pelland asked those in the car to agree to a breath test to see whether or not they had been drinking. Guthrie refused, so Pelland wrote her a ticket.

Now she's arguing this ordinance is unlawful and a violation of the Fourth Amendment, as Pelland was not first required to get a warrant to conduct these tests.

"What's especially egregious is that police are intimidating teenagers into taking Breathalyzers and telling them, 'You need to prove your innocence,'" the gir's lawyer, Mike Rataj said. "That's not the way the criminal justice system works."

Guthrie's lawsuit is actually not unusual for Michigan. As the Detroit Free Press reports:

Over the past decade in Michigan, judges have struck down warrantless Breathalyzer tests three times, most recently in 2007, when U.S. District Judge David Lawson struck down a state law that allowed police to force pedestrians under the age of 21 to take a Breathalyzer without first obtaining a search warrant.

In a 32-page opinion, Lawson concluded the state law violated the Fourth Amendment. But his ruling does not apply to drivers of a motor vehicle.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two women, ages 18 and 19, who had attended high school graduation parties and were pressured into taking breath tests, even though neither had been drinking, records show. In one case, local police showed up at the 18-year-old's house at 4 a.m., woke up her family and demanded that she take a breath test, noting her refusal to do so would be considered unlawful.

The teenager took the test, which registered a .00% blood-alcohol level, records show.

Lawson heard a similar case in 2003, when he struck down a Bay City Breathalyzer ordinance. Following that decision, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan sent letters or emails to 425 city, village and university attorneys advising them to urge their local law enforcement agencies to stop forcing minors to take unconstitutional Breathalyzer tests.

While pedestrians and minors are already protected under the law, Guthrie's lawsuit may be a step in extending these rights to those behind the wheel. If officers have a reason to believe a teenager may have been drinking, they should get a warrant.

[Hat tip: Aaron Lanning]

Brickbat: Filing the Correct Paperwork

Thu, 02 Jun 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) More than 80 college students are facing criminal charges in Fairfield, Connecticut, and the police chief says they shouldn't be. The students were cited by police officers for misrepresentation of age, an infraction which carries a $200 fine, after police raided a local bar and found them with fake ID cards. But the officers cited them under a law that was repealed four years ago. So when the citations got to the local court, a clerk there noticed that and changed all of the charges to misrepresenting age to procure liquor, a misdemeanor offense which carries a larger fine and the possibility of time in jail. "This is terrible," said Police Chief Armando Perez. "I didn't want to hit these kids. I just wanted to send them a message. A fine is one thing, but a misdemeanor can go on their record."

Food Policy and the 2016 Presidential Election

Sat, 28 May 2016 06:00:00 -0400

With the Libertarian Party picking its nominee this weekend, and with Democrats and Republicans having all but chosen their respective nominees already, it's as good a time as any to chew on some of the key food-policy issues candidates should be discussing as we inch toward the general election in November. In that spirit, here are nine key issues I'd like to see the presidential candidates discuss this year. 1) Ending farm subsidies and other protection/promotion of food crops. Farm subsidies waste billions of taxpayer dollars every year; promote growing a handful of crops (like corn and soy) that are more likely to become sweeteners, ethanol, or animal feed than they are to become food for people; and likely play a role in America's high rates of obesity. Sugar tariffs, USDA marketing programs (for dairy, nuts, fruits, and vegetables), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) checkoff programs (for dairy, beef, pork, and other foods) waste billions more dollars to promote and protect wealthy incumbents that deserve neither support nor protection. 2) Embracing GMO neutrality. The government should neither disparage nor favor farmers who raise GMO (genetically modified) crops. Mandatory labeling and bans would do the former, while subsidies and other laws, including the lapsed Farmer Assurance Provision (dubbed the "Monsanto Protection Act" by its detractors), have unfairly promoted GMO crops and protected GMO farmers. Farmers and consumers—not government—should be the only ones choosing whether they prefer GMO crops, organic crops, conventional crops, or some combination thereof. 3) Ending federal support for state unpasteurized (raw) milk bans. The Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) ban of interstate raw milk sales only came about in 1987 in the wake of a federal court ruling that forced the agency's hand. Whether you believe that court ruling makes sense, the federal government should not encourage states to ban raw milk sales (as the agency does today). 4) Reining in the FDA. The FDA's crackdowns on salt, sugar, caffeine and trans fats; its overreaching food-safety schemes that have targeted farmers markets, organic farmers, beer brewers, startup food entrepreneurs, and artisanal cheesemakers alike; and its misbegotten food-labeling rules have made the FDA under President Barack Obama the most activist in history. The FDA has a role to play in ensuring the safety of our food supply. Reining in an unfocused and misadventurous FDA can help the agency to refocus on its core mission. 5) Ending the federal ban on sales of locally slaughtered meat. In 1967, Congress delegated to the USDA a power it did not have: to require that all meat sold commercially in this country—even meat that is (or could be, were it not for the law) raised, slaughtered, processed, and sold in just one state—be slaughtered and processed at a USDA-inspected facility or equivalent state facility. The result? Massive industry consolidation, a depressed supply of locally raised beef (at a time of rising demand), costly food recalls, and dangerous lapses in food-safety oversight. 6) Ending federal policies that promote food waste. Food waste is a costly and largely preventable problem that is often the unintended consequence of bad lawmaking. For example, the USDA's behemoth National School Lunch Program hemorrhages money, has seen participation plummet, fails to feed schoolkids adequately, and promotes more than $1 billion of food waste each year. Let's end the National School Lunch Program. In its place, encourage states to combat food waste locally by having families who can afford to do so pack brown-bag meals for kids (which reduces food waste at home and at school), and encourage businesses to prepare and donate [...]

How Raging Bitch Escaped Beer Label Censorship

Mon, 23 May 2016 00:01:00 -0400

This month Flying Dog Brewery is launching a 1st Amendment Society, funded by the damages the Maryland company won from Michigan officials who tried to ban its Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA. The new organization, which will sponsor a journalism scholarship and talks on freedom of speech, is the product of a six-year legal battle that began in 2009, when members of the Michigan Liquor Control Commission took offense at the Raging Bitch label, which the agency had to approve before the beer could legally be sold in that state. The episode, one of many pitting bold brewers against bluenosed bureaucrats, shows how readily alcohol regulation becomes a cover for censorship and how easily petty tyrants conflate their personal tastes with the public interest. The Raging Bitch label features an illustration by Ralph Steadman, an artist who frequently worked with gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, a friend of Flying Dog co-founder George Stranahan. As described by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit last year, the drawing shows "a wild dog presenting human female genitalia as well as possessing semblances of human female breasts." The label also includes this message from Steadman: "Two inflammatory words…one wild drink. Nectar imprisoned in a bottle. Let it out. It is cruel to keep a wild animal locked up. Uncap it. Release it…stand back!! Wallow in its golden glow in a glass beneath a white foaming head. Remember, enjoying a RAGING BITCH, unleashed, untamed, unbridled—and in heat—is pure GONZO!! It has taken 20 years to get from there to here. Enjoy!" Michigan's alcohol regulators did not like the label. Exactly why they did not like the label is not completely clear, because their reasons kept changing. Initially, in November 2009, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission said the name of the beer and Steadman's message ran afoul of a rule prohibiting labels "deemed to promote violence, racism, sexism, intemperance or intoxication or to be detrimental to the health, safety or welfare of the general public." At an appeal hearing in April 2010, Commissioner Donald Weatherspoon complained that the word bitch, although ostensibly referring to a female dog, also could be read as a disparaging term for a female human. Flying Dog CEO James Caruso explained that "it's a play on words," which did not seem to mollify Weatherspoon. "When we're in a gray area," said Commissioner Patrick Gagliardi, "[we] attempt to err on the side of the least offensive," and "we have not been willing to put this particular five-letter word on the front of the box." He alluded to the damage that might be done to impressionable passers-by who catch a glimpse of the Raging Bitch label on a grocery store shelf, saying, "That product goes in front of all ages from children on up." Gagliardi added that "we don't believe in censorship," which suggests he does not know what that word means. What does Gagliardi call it when government officials suppress speech because it offends them? Denying Flying Dog's appeal in July 2010, the commission cited "language deemed detrimental to the health, safety, or welfare of the general public due to the promiscuous nature of the product label." As 6th Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore noted last year, "the Commissioners never explain how an inanimate object such as a product label could have a 'promiscuous nature.'" In 2011, after Flying Dog sought a preliminary injunction against the Raging Bitch ban, the commissioners filed a brief that cited the state's "compelling interest in protecting the physical and psychological well-being of minors." They also mentioned Michigan's "substantial interest in regulating alcohol consumption and promoting temperance." How [...]

The Petty Tyranny of Beer Label Censors

Fri, 20 May 2016 06:30:00 -0400

(image) "We don't believe in censorship," declared one of the Michigan regulators who tried to ban Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA because the label offended him. In my latest Forbes column, I explain how Flying Dog Brewery, which produces Raging Bitch, managed to win damages from the officials who blocked its beer:

This month Flying Dog Brewery is launching a 1st Amendment Society, funded by the damages the Maryland company won from Michigan officials who tried to ban its Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA. The new organization, which will sponsor a journalism scholarship and talks on freedom of speech, is the product of a six-year legal battle that began in 2009, when members of the Michigan Liquor Control Commission took offense at the Raging Bitch label, which the agency had to approve before the beer could legally be sold in that state. The episode, one of many pitting bold brewers against bluenosed bureaucrats, shows how readily alcohol regulation becomes a cover for censorship and how easily petty tyrants conflate their personal tastes with the public interest.

Read the whole thing.