Can you buy alcohol online?

Can you buy alcohol online? Well, that depends a lot on what state that you live in.

After prohibition was repealed the Supreme Court gave states enormous powers to regulate the sale of alcohol. These powers are so broad that some would argue that that the repeal of prohibition itself empowered states to bypass laws such as unreasonable search and seizure as well as the Interstate Commerce Clause. However, the government at the time was dealing with the fact that organized crime had a monopoly on the distribution of alcohol. Today, there are a few states such as Utah and Pennsylvania that handle all aspects of importing, distribution, and even retail. In these states having wine shipped to you is generally illegal or severely restricted. Most states have a three tier system such as Hawaii and Florida. In the three tier system , retailers and restaurants much purchase alcohol from a distributor. They wouldn’t be able to purchase directly from a winery or distillery.

The freedom of individuals to purchase alcohol online varies quite a bit from state to state even under the three tier system. It has become a very complicated question, especially in the current age of internet commerce. A great resource that I have discovered to find out whether you can buy alcohol online or ship from your state is the Wine Institutes “Who Ships Where Table”. The Wine Institute is a public policy advocacy association of California wineries that among other things helps advocate for direct shipments from wineries. I have found the information on their site to be helpful, but please keep in mind that buying from wineries and from a retailer is not always the same thing and laws are always changing. This is why it is really hard to find a definitive answer without contacting the liquor department in the state or county where you live.

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