Repeal May Cause Confusion

American Brewer   Sept. 1933

Repeal May Cause Confusion With Two Laws Regulating Beer

PROBLEMS that will arise with repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution which provides for national prohibition are engaging the attention of President Roosevelt and officials of his administration. While officials and experts of the Internal Revenue and Industrial Alcohol Bureaus of the Treasury Department are reported to be working on plans for legislation dealing with liquor, and possibly beer, Representative Emanuel Celler of Brooklyn, N. Y, let it be known, after a conference with the President, that the latter had requested him to make a study of liquor laws and the situation that will exist when Prohibition is repealed.

According to Treasury officials, immediately upon repeal, old laws affecting beer, taxation and liquor that were in effect in pre-Prohibition days will become operative, unless they have since been changed. Few seem to realize that under old laws beer of more than 3.2 percent alcoholic content may be manufactured after Prohibition is repealed, as well as the more recently authorized 3.2 beer. Also, it is stated, there would be in effect two rates of Federal taxation on beer: the new $5 rate per barrel on 3.2 percent beer and the old $6 rate on beer of higher alcoholic content. That is, unless Congress takes action to change the situation.

 Just what would be the effect of two Federal beer laws in Operation and two different rates of taxation is a matter of speculation. It has been claimed by some that the new beer is of practically the same alcoholic content as pre-Prohibition beer. What the official attitude of the brewing industry will be on the question of two beer laws and two rates of taxation does not appear as yet, but it is interesting to note that influential and well informed representatives of brewing interests have expressed the hope that the 3.2 percent beer law and rate of taxation may remain as is. They do not, apparently, object to the old beer law coming back also. They think it would be advantageous to the brewing industry, now being re- established on a new basis, if the alcoholic content of the present legal beverage is retained at the new rate of tax, which gives it the old legal Status of being non-intoxicating, and the product may continue to be sold with few Federal restrictions as is now the case.

Such would not be the case with a beer of higher alcoholic content, it is feared. With two standard beers on the market, the public would have opportunity to choose between the present mild beverage sold freely and widely and the old time stronger beer, probably to be made and distributed under more Strict government supervision.

Incidentally, some members of Congress who have supported the beer cause for years, seem sore at the brewers. One of these is Representative O’Connor of New York, who was leader of the Democratic beer bloc in the House. He charges the brewers with being guilty of profiteering. Says he: “What America needs is a good big foaming 5 cent glass of beer.

Brewers’ representatives reply that the breweries charge reasonable prices for their product. If there is any profiteering anywhere, it is alleged to be on the part of the distributors and retailers. Even at that, it is known that beer is being sold in 5 cent glasses in certain localities. For example, in Washington, D. C., there are many retailers who feature a 6-ounce glass of beer, equivalent to half a bottle, for a nickel. Christian Heurich, dean of brewers in Washington, believes it practicable for brewer, distributor and retailer to make a decent profit with beer sold in a reasonably sized glass for five cents.

Repeal will not only complicate the situation as regards Federal beer and liquor laws, but also that involving state laws. Some few states have taken time by the forelock and enacted legislation to become effective when repeal is brought about. Others have commissions and boards studying the problem. Legislatures of certain states are considering the situation, and other legislatures will probably be called into specific session to act on new state beer and/or liquor laws either before or shortly after Prohibition is repealed.

To illustrate the possible confusion that may exist upon repeal, it is stated by brewing trade representatives that some state constitutions or state laws provide that anything authorized under the Federal law or constitutions is legal within those states. Under such a provision, it is pointed out, 3.2 percent beer would now be legal in the states involved, and higher power beer would be lawful after Prohibition is repealed, provided the present Federal laws are not changed. In other states, on the other hand, it is provided by law or constitution that anything prohibited by Federal law or constitution is prohibited in such states. Under such provisions of state law or constitution, high power beer and hard liquors would still be outlawed in the states concerned, even after national Prohibition is repealed and present laws authorizing such liquors again becomes effective. That is, unless the States involved take steps meantime, to legalize beer of more than 3.2 percent alcoholic content and hard liquors.

Some of those who have been studying the situation think that the ease and simplicity with which 3.2 percent beer has returned and is being handled foreshadows simple and popular methods for regulating the production of and traffic in stronger malt beverages and hard liquors. One of these authorities is Edward P. Mulrooney, Chairman of the New York State Alcoholic Control Board. He thinks that the new beer laws will serve as the groundwork for the control of the alcoholic liquor traffic. He believes that legalized beer was a big step towards restoration of temperance.

Mr. Mulrooney says that new beer gardens are coming back; that will approximate the old fashioned beer gardens, where whole families were wont to seek refreshment.

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