Loosening of State Regulations, Direct-to-Consumer Sales Increase Counterfeit Alcohol Risks

March 4th 2020, 10:58am

Center for Alcohol Policy Releases New White Paper Addressing Risks of Fake Alcohol in Interstate E-Commerce

(ALEXANDIRA, Va.) Today the Center for Alcohol Policy (the Center) released its newest report on the need for states to evaluate the risks of fake alcohol stemming from online or interstate direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales in the United States.

The white paper commissioned by the Center and authored by Patrick Maroney, the former top Colorado alcohol regulator, is a follow-up to two Center for Alcohol Policy-funded studies from 2014 and 2017, both authored by Robert Tobiassen, a former chief counsel at the U.S. Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

“From my 33 years of experience in law enforcement and as former director of a state liquor regulatory agency, I understand the importance of America’s strong alcohol regulatory system and its relevancy to public health and safety,” says Maroney. “With the world of e-commerce now an everyday presence in consumers’ lives, this report provides a much-needed analysis on its influence in the alcohol marketplace and significant risks to public health and safety.”

While Tobiassen’s two studies focused on incidents of fake alcohol mostly in the United Kingdom (U.K.) and Ireland as compared to the United States (2014) and the U.K.’s newly regulated alcohol wholesaler system (2017), Maroney’s update discusses DTC sales through interstate e-commerce – specifically how this platform increases avenues for counterfeit products to enter the marketplace around the world.

Maroney points out that counterfeit or tainted alcohol “poses a far higher risk to public health and safety” than most other fake products found throughout the e-commerce marketplace. He also highlights how counterfeit alcohol harms the legitimate alcohol industry.

Since the U.S. three-tier regulatory system for the alcohol industry is designed to protect public health and safety and other interests, the U.S. has been fortunate to see few reported health issues or deaths attributed to tainted alcohol, unlike other countries such as IndiaMexico and Costa Rica. But if the current regulatory system in place is undone by expanding online DTC sales, Maroney warns that it would “increase the exposure of fake and counterfeit alcohol beverage products to the alcohol industry, specifically to the consumer.”

“The Center understands the need for sound research on alcohol regulations,” says Mike Lashbrook, the Center’s Executive Director. “At a time of significant disruption in how consumers purchase and receive alcohol, it is important for policy makers to assess the public health and safety risks to any proposed changes to alcohol regulations.”

The report additionally highlights current state laws that are used to combat fake alcohol and warns against efforts to circumvent these laws in desire for consumer convenience.  

Read the full report here.

Loyola University Chicago Law Student Wins First Place in Center for Alcohol Policy National Essay Contest

March 2nd 2020, 2:17pm

The Center for Alcohol Policy is pleased to announce that Travis Thickstun, a J.D. candidate at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, has been named the winner of the Center’s Twelfth Annual Essay Contest. Thickstun is also a district commander for the Indiana State Excise Police and holds a Master of Jurisprudence from Indiana University McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis.
To enter the contest, participants were asked to provide thoughtful responses to the following prompt:

During the United States Supreme Court 2019 term, the Court announced in June its decision in Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association v. Thomas (TWSRA v Thomas). Based on the Court’s decision, what do you believe will be the next steps for alcohol policy in the United States?
“The TWSRA v. Thomas Supreme Court Case provided an extraordinary opportunity for participants to explore the potential aftermath of this decision – the first of its kind in 13 years,” says Center for Alcohol Policy Advisory Council member Brannon Denning. “This year’s winners delivered exceptional research and analysis on the Twenty-First Amendment’s history in the courts and its future in light of Justice Alito’s opinion.”

Thickstun’s winning essay, “The Camel’s Nose Under the Tent: Next Steps for State-Based Alcohol Policy After Tennessee Wine and Spirits”, provides an in depth analysis of courts’ initial interpretations of the Twenty-First Amendment immediately following its adoption and skillfully addresses its historical and complex relationship with the Dormant Commerce Clause leading up to TWSRA v. Thomas.

Thickstun outlines possible next steps for state-based regulation of alcohol and provides policy recommendations – “State legislators, regulators, and the alcoholic beverage industry itself… must enact alcohol policies that can withstand the post- Tennessee Wine Dormant Commerce Clause analysis by basing them on concerns for public health or safety or on some other legitimate nonprotectionist ground.”

Timothy Gervais, a tax accountant in California and now a three-time award recipient, placed second with his essay, “Residency Requirements, the Commerce Clause, and the “Predominant Effects Test”: A Brief Analysis of Tennessee Wine and Spirits Association v. Thomas”. 

Gervais acknowledges the difficulty of predicting long-term consequences that stem from any Supreme Court ruling and addresses the reality that changes in alcohol regulation might happen gradually.

Even so, Gervais points out that “one clear implication for future alcohol regulation” from TWSRA v. Thomas is the considerable amount of litigation that is sure to arise from its decision.

Receiving third place for her essay “Erosion or Explosion? The Future of Alcohol Policy in the United States,” Adrienne Southworth, the former deputy chief of staff to a Lt. Governor, addresses what she believes to be a “new era” in alcohol policy following the Tennessee Wine decision, given the “180-degree turns” the Supreme Court has made in its interpretation of the Twenty-First Amendment.

Southworth questions four possible outcomes: Whether this new era could “disintegrate” the three-tier system, the potential for escalated litigation under the Commerce Clause, whether the weakening of state regulations could result in national policy or if state regulations might survive as long as they assume smart solutions.

The winning entrants received prizes of $5,000, $2,500 and $1,000 respectively.

All three award recipients will be invited to speak at the Center’s upcoming Alcohol Law and Policy Conference in Chicago, IL August 30 – September 1, 2020.

Read their full essays here

These essays were judged by the Center’s Advisory Council. Judges did not receive any names or personal information about the participants prior to judging.

Floridians Show Strong Support for State Regulation of Alcohol

February 21st 2020, 11:14am

Support exceeds that found in national polls and bridges partisan gap

(TALLAHASSEE, Fl.) – A new poll commissioned by the Center for Alcohol Policy on public opinion toward alcohol regulation found that Floridians are overwhelmingly supportive of the state regulation of alcohol with 91% in agreement that it is very important to keep the alcohol industry regulated. This support is roughly 5% higher than what was found in a national poll on the same topic.

While government regulation of any kind is often viewed through a partisan lens, this doesn’t hold true regarding alcohol: 91% of Republicans, 90% of Democrats and 91% of Independents all agree that the alcohol industry should remain regulated.

Nearly 9 in 10 voters (88%) in Florida are also satisfied with the existing alcohol regulations in their state, and only 8% believe the regulations are too restrictive. The vast majority (68%) believe the regulations are “just about right” or “too lenient” (12%). This level of support and satisfaction top the national data.

“It’s clear that Floridians are among the strongest supporters of responsible alcohol regulation in the nation,” said Mike Lashbrook, Executive Director, Center for Alcohol Policy. “At a time when a few strident voices complain about restrictions on alcohol sales, it is important to note that huge majorities across all demographics support current regulations.”

Additional survey results show that Florida voters want alcohol regulations to prioritize safety. Americans say lawmakers should prioritize “protecting health and public safety” over “creating jobs and improving the economy” or “offering more choices and lower prices.” This support for protecting health and public safety also traverses the partisan spectrum.

Other important findings of the survey demonstrate that Floridians are satisfied with the availability and variety of alcohol products in their communities and express support for the three-tier system of alcohol distribution.

More details on the comprehensive survey may be found here.


The Center for Alcohol Policy is a 501c(3) organization whose mission is to educate policymakers, 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.

Center for Alcohol Policy Celebrates 86th Anniversary of the 21st Amendment

December 5th 2019, 11:53am

On this day in 1933, the United States ratified the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, laying down the foundation for today’s state-based alcohol regulatory system. 

Today marks the 86th Anniversary of the passage of the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, which repealed prohibition and set in motion the regulatory system that we have today.

For over 80 years, the United States and its citizens have benefited from a state-based system of alcohol regulation set forth by the 21st Amendment, which gives each state the primary authority to enact and enforce alcohol laws consistent with the desires and needs of its residents.
Also in 1933, John D. Rockefeller Jr. commissioned a study on alcohol regulation to prepare Americans for the return of legal alcohol. The product, Toward Liquor Control, provided guidance for policymakers as they set up regulatory systems for alcohol. Much of that framework still exists today.
In 2011, the Center for Alcohol Policy republished this book in an effort to help legislators, public health advocates, regulators, industry members and the public understand many of the origins of modern alcohol regulation, why so many of these laws still exist today and how they benefit public health and safety. Since its republication, the Center has distributed over 11,600 copies.
The 21st Amendment and state alcohol laws and regulations are often under attack and ridiculed, and 2019 proved no different. Lawsuits challenging the 21st Amendment have found themselves all over the United States, from coast to coast in California and Connecticut, and in between from Mississippi to Missouri, Minnesota and Texas.

And one particular case found itself in the highest court of the Nation. In June of this year, the United States Supreme Court struck Tennessee’s liquor retail residency law.  As Granholm v. Heald did in 2005, the Tennessee case has already prompted several new lawsuits challenging similar laws in other states. The Center for Alcohol Policy filed a brief in support of Tennessee’s alcohol law, and many additional supporting briefs cited Center funded research and its republished book Toward Liquor Control.
Going forward, the Supreme Court’s decision in TWSRA v. Thomas made it clear that defense of the 21st Amendment and state alcohol laws will require strong public health and safety justifications – as well as other legitimate interests – and the Center for Alcohol Policy has positioned itself as the best resource for states needing to make these arguments.
So on this anniversary of the 21st Amendment, the Center for Alcohol Policy stands ready to defend and protect the state’s authority to regulate alcohol within its borders and promote public health and safety through state-based regulation of alcohol, a time-tested system that has proven effective and efficient for 86 years.  

Center Holds 12th Annual Alcohol Law and Policy Conference with Record Breaking Attendance

September 17th 2019, 11:10am

A Message from the Center’s Executive Director

The Boston Red Sox weren’t in town August 25-27, but the city experienced a few home runs anyway. The Center for Alcohol Policy’s 12 Annual Law and Policy Conference (ALPC) was in town with record attendance and a number of highly rated sessions on topics ranging from the impact of the recent Supreme Court Decision nullifying Tennessee’s residency requirements for retail liquor store licenses to the movement of banning the use of alcohol products containing more than 15% ABV at college fraternities and sororities. 

The ALPC brings together a wide range of stakeholders in the alcohol policy arena to learn about and discuss trending issues and network with regulators, lawmakers, public health advocates, industry representatives from all three tiers. This year set a record in attendance with 160 registrants from 34 states and feedback received from attendees was off the charts.

MA Attorney General Maura Healey was the conference keynote speaker at Monday’s lunch and hit it out of the park with a sincere appeal to all alcohol policy stakeholders to continue the work of supporting responsible alcohol regulation in our communities. As a former basketball point guard at the NCAA Division I level, she stressed the importance of teamwork and praised the Center for bringing together regulators, lawmakers, public health advocates and industry representatives as a team to combat problems associated with alcohol abuse.

ALPC attendees also heard from pollster Lori Weigel of New Bridge Strategy on the results of the Center’s national public opinion survey on alcohol regulation which found strong, continuing support for state based alcohol regulation and the three tier system.

The impact of alcohol regulation on public health and safety was an important theme running through several of the panel discussions held during the conference.  This comes at a time when these public health and safety benefits of state-based alcohol regulation will be instrumental in defending these regulations going forward. As the distinguished panel of legal experts explained in reviewing the recent Supreme Court decision in TWSRA V Thomas, a law’s demonstrated impact on public health and safety will be an important factor in saving it from dormant commerce clause challenges. 

A panel of public health advocates presented case studies of where health and safety concerns were instrumental in defeating alcohol deregulation efforts; and other panels explored the challenges of “problem bars,” the positive impact of liquor law enforcement efforts in addressing a wide range of criminal activity including human trafficking and the continuing challenges of  illegal direct shipping and cross border sales of alcohol.

The 12th Annual ALPC was indeed a hit with so many alcohol regulation and public health professionals there to witness the value of the Center’s work. We trust that more will do the same in the years ahead!


Mike Lashbrook
Executive Director, Center for Alcohol Policy

The Center Co-hosts Arizona Alcohol Policy Forum Examining State-Based Alcohol Regulation, E-Commerce, Public Health and Safety

September 16th 2019, 3:20pm

The Center held its 7th State Alcohol Policy Forum on Friday, September 6 in Scottsdale, Arizona in coordination with the Beverage Alcohol Community Information Council (BACIC)

Lester Jones, chief economist for the National Beer Wholesalers Association, kicked things off with a look at the economic impacts of the alcohol industry, its past, present and future, and specifically within the state of Arizona. Pam Erickson, a Center supported consultant and expert witness on alcohol regulation, presented on how to balance public safety and business needs through effective and responsible state alcohol regulations. 

Additional topics included internet sales, shipping and delivery of alcohol, and the challenges and opportunities that come along with eCommerce in the industry. Representatives from public safety advocacy organizations, industry groups and alcohol regulators discussed best practices for tackling public health issues involving alcohol, while the final panel session debated emerging public policy considerations for the legalization of marijuana, and how it may or may not look similar to historic alcohol regulation.

Lastly, The Honorable Mark Brnovich delivered a dynamic keynote presentation during the forum’s luncheon, where he elaborated on his experiences as Attorney General of Arizona and the benefits of state-based regulation of alcohol. You can view the full program and lineup here

The Center for Alcohol Policy regularly hosts state alcohol policy forums, along with its annual alcohol law and policy conference, that bring together a wide range of experts in the field of alcohol law. Arizona wrapped up the Center’s state forums for 2019, but the Center is excited to hold more throughout 2020. 

Kansas Alcohol Regulator Receives National Award at Center for Alcohol Policy Conference

September 3rd 2019, 11:30am

Debbi Beavers, Director of the Kansas Alcoholic Beverage Control, receives Leadership in Alcohol Regulation Award

The Center for Alcohol Policy is pleased to announce that Debbi Beavers, Director of the Kansas Alcoholic Beverage Control, is the recipient of the Seventh Annual Leadership in Alcohol Regulation Award.

The award, which recognizes a specific program, agency or person with the ability to regulate the alcohol industry and promote public health and safety, was presented by the Center’s Advisory Council at the 12th Annual Alcohol Law and Policy Conference, in Boston, Mass.  

From left to right: Center for Alcohol Policy Advisory Council member Jerry Oliver; Director Debbi Beavers; Advisory Council members Brannon Denning, Jim Hall, and Patrick Lynch.

Director Beavers has served the State of Kansas for over 15 years and has always been known for her honest and thoughtful approach. The Center for Alcohol Policy chose Mrs. Beavers to receive this award because she has led with an appropriate focus on ensuring an orderly and fair marketplace and advocating for responsible policies that protect the well-being of all Kansans. 

Specifically, Mrs. Beavers was selected for leading the agency and the industry through the profound changes that have occurred in beverage alcohol regulations in Kansas over the last two years. Through dialogue with all segments of the industry, community and public health stakeholders, as well as education of alcohol licensees, she dynamically led this transition under the new laws.

“The Center works diligently to promote public health and safety through a responsible state-based alcohol regulatory system and strives to educate regulators on the importance of prioritizing public safety when enforcing state law,” said Center for Alcohol Policy Advisor Jerry Oliver. “The Center is proud to present its annual award to someone who shares those same values, day in and day out.”

2019 Annual Essay Contest Topic Announced

July 17th 2019, 1:08pm

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The Center for Alcohol Policy is now accepting entries for its 12th Annual National Essay Contest. The topic for this year’s contest is:

During the United States Supreme Court 2019 term, the Court announced in June its decision in Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association v. Thomas. Based on the Court’s decision, what do you believe will be the next steps for alcohol policy in the United States?

“The Center’s national essay contest has gained considerable traction over the past decade, and we expect its influence to keep growing,” explains Branning Denning, Cumberland School of Law Professor and Center for Alcohol Policy Advisor. “As regulation of the alcohol industry is often misunderstood, this opportunity provides students and professionals with a chance to evaluate and research it, as well as bring attention to its complexities and successes.”
To Denning’s point, these essays have garnered exceptional success. Some have been republished in other publications; the 2011 winners presented their papers at the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators; and the 2015 winning essay was cited to the United States Supreme Court in the same case that serves as the topic of this year’s contest.

WHO CAN ENTER: The contest is open to all persons who are over the age of 18 as of December 2019. Students, academics, practicing attorneys, policymakers, regulators and anyone with an interest in state-based alcohol regulation is invited to participate.  
HOW TO ENTER: Entries may be submitted here.
DEADLINE: The deadline for entries is Jan. 17, 2020. Winners will be announced soon after.
AWARDS: Cash prizes will be awarded to the first, second and third place winners in the amounts of $5,000, $2,500 and $1,000 respectively.
Read additional essay guidelines here and view last year’s winning essays here.

Celebrating a Decade of Essays! Free E-book Collection Now Available.

May 20th 2019, 2:31pm

The Center for Alcohol Policy is celebrating 10 years of its annual essay contest that explores alcohol regulation in the 21st century.  Each year, students and professionals are encouraged to participate in this significant effort to bring attention to state alcohol regulation, its complexities and many successes.

The Center has comprised a collection of these essays written by the its previous 1st place recipients from 2008 – 2018, which you can download for free here!

No matter the alcohol regulatory efforts or challenges you may face , we hope that this collection of work will be a valuable resource for you. Several topics available to explore here include:

  • History and importance of the 21st Amendment
  • Recommendations on state-level regulation & policy proposals
  • Alcohol on college campuses
  • The three-tier system
  • Orderly alcohol markets
  • Redefining temperance
  • And more!

Help us celebrate the success of these exploratory essays and the influence they’ve had in the industry over the past decade. Download your free navigable copy today! 

National Survey: Support for State Regulation of Alcohol Bridges Partisan Gap

May 6th 2019, 10:31am

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A new poll commissioned by the Center for Alcohol Policy on public opinion toward alcohol regulation found that Americans continue to overwhelmingly support states maintaining the authority to regulate alcohol within their own borders.  Notably, this support is remarkably strong across political party lines despite the heightened political polarization of today.  85 percent of Republicans, 81 percent of Democrats and 83 percent of Independents express support for alcohol being regulated at the state level.

Key findings from the Center’s survey additionally show that American adults are in favor of a broad array of state-level alcohol regulations and the three-tier system, which separates the manufacture, distribution and sale of alcohol.  In particular, they are satisfied with the consumer choice fostered by the American system of alcohol distribution.  

Additional results indicate that Americans want lawmakers to prioritize public health and safety over convenience and price when weighing changes to alcohol regulations.

“Public support for responsible state alcohol regulation has remained consistently high over the last decade. Despite the many attacks within the industry on regulation and the independent distribution system, the vast majority of Americans remain supportive,” says Jim Hall, former Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board and Center for Alcohol Policy Advisor.  “This steady support cuts across all demographic groups, even the red/blue divide, on nearly all these issues.  Americans clearly agree public health and safety are essential when considering changes to current law.”

Key findings from the survey include:

Americans continue to support state regulation of alcohol.

  • 86 percent of respondents agree that alcohol is a product that needs to be regulated.
  • 82 percent agree that alcohol is different that other products, and therefore should be regulated differently.
  • Support remains high for individual state regulation of alcohol (83 percent).
  • A wide majority support requiring license holders to be a resident of their respective state (77 percent).
  • 76 percent agree that alcohol sold should come through a licensed system for tracking.
  • 87 percent of respondents displayed a high confidence in the safety of alcohol products sold in their state.

Americans are satisfied with current alcohol regulations in their state.

  • 82 percent of Americans continue to be satisfied with the existing system for alcohol in their respective states.
  • Nearly 9 out of 10 Americans are satisfied with the variety of alcohol products available (87 percent).

The three-tier system is viewed very positively.

  • 75 percent of respondents show support for states regulating through a three-tier system, which has been consistent over the past decade, and 3 out of 4 agree that the system works well.

Americans want alcohol laws to prioritize safety.

  • Most Americans reject that alcohol is just like other consumer products.
  • Drunk driving is seen as the most serious alcohol-related problem.
  • Survey respondents want lawmakers address drunk driving first. 78 percent agree reducing drunk driving is a priority, followed by protecting health and public safety (70%) and reducing underage drinking (64 percent).
  • Given the nation’s priorities, it is not surprising that 85 percent of Americans support keeping the legal drinking age at 21 years old.

The survey was conducted by New Bridge Strategy among 1,000 adults ages 21 and older throughout the nation. The interviews were conducted online and distributed proportionally throughout the U.S. and are demographically representative of this age group. The confidence interval associated with this sample is +/-3.5% at the 95% confidence level; with varying confidence for population subgroups within the sample.    

News Archives »

Subscribe to the RSS Feed
Center for Alcohol Policy
1101 King Street Ste 600-A Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: (703) 519-3090 info@centerforalcoholpolicy.org