Florida A&M University College of Law Graduate Wins First Place in Center for Alcohol Policy’s Eighth Annual Essay Contest

ALEXANDRIA, VA – The Center for Alcohol Policy is pleased to announce that Roni Elias, a recent graduate of Florida A&M University College of Law, is the winner of its Eighth Annual Essay Contest. The national essay contest is intended to foster debate, analysis and examination of state alcohol regulation.

Last year marked the 10th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Granholm decision, which ruled against two states’ laws that discriminated against out-of-state alcohol producers but also affirmed, “The three-tier system is unquestionably legitimate.” Contest entrants were asked to explore how this “unquestionably legitimate” system has fostered competition, increased new products available to consumers and worked to protect consumers and the public.

“This year’s essay gave participants from across the country the opportunity to examine the impact of the 2005 Granholm decision on today’s state-based alcohol system,” said Brannon Denning, a member of the Center’s Advisory Council and associate dean and professor of law at Samford University Cumberland School of Law.

Elias’ winning essay, “Three Cheers for Three Tiers: Why the Three-Tier System Maintains Its Legal Validity and Social Benefits After Granholm,” outlines the regulatory and economic advantages of the three-tier system and how threats to the system could erode those benefits that suppliers, wholesalers, retailers and consumers receive.

“[A]s Americans have long recognized, alcohol cannot be sold in the same way as any other commodity… changing the operation of the three-tier system should not, therefore, be taken lightly,” Elias’ essay states.

Elias concludes, “Although the Supreme Court’s decision in Granholm might have seemed to offer a chance for a dramatic expansion of direct shipment and a transformation of the regulatory scheme for selling alcohol, a careful reading of that decision, along with subsequent judicial rulings have made it clear that the three-tier system is still consistent with the constitutional order.”

Gurney Pearsall, a student at the University of Colorado Law School, was awarded second place for his essay, “When Wine Enters, Sense Leaves: A Case For Why the Three-Tier System’s Regulations Stir Competition, Boost Diversity and Protect Consumers,” which compares aspects of the current U.S. alcohol regulatory system to that of European alcohol regulatory models to highlight the benefits of a state-based, three-tiered system.

Pearsall’s essay states, “In Granholm v. Heald, the U.S. Supreme Court described the nearly century-old three-tier system as ‘unquestionably legitimate.’ As such, the Twenty-First Amendment will likely continue governing the three-tier system for the foreseeable future.”

Pearsall concludes, “The three-tier system is a uniquely American enterprise, and it continues to set the standard for other nations that are struggling to walk the fine line between dangerously under-regulating their alcohol market, on the one hand, and counter-productively overregulating their alcohol market on the other hand.”

The winning entrants receive prizes of $5,000 and $2,500 respectively.

To read the winning essays, please visit www.centerforalcoholpolicy.org/essay-contest.

Photo Downloads:

Roni Elias

Gurney Pearsall


The Center for Alcohol Policy is a 501 c(3) organization whose mission is to educate policy makers, regulators and the public about alcohol, its uniqueness and regulation.  By conducting sound and scientific-based research and implementing initiatives that will maintain the appropriate state-based regulation of alcohol, the Center promotes safe and responsible consumption, fights underage drinking and drunk driving and informs key entities about the effects of alcohol consumption.  For more information, visit www.centerforalcoholpolicy.org or follow the Center on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AlcoholPolicy.


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