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Alcohol Regulation Roundup: March 1, 2013

National: The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit to block Anheuser-Busch Inbev from taking full control over Negro Modelo. A few weeks later the DOJ set the lawsuit aside as it entered into talks with the beer maker to determine how the deal could go through.

As I wrote in my op-ed for The Daily Caller, the beer market needs liberty, not lawsuits.

Also in national news, Phusion Projects, the maker of Four Loko, agreed to change its cans after the FTC investigated claims that the product advertising was misleading (for example, claiming that consumers can drink a can safely in one sitting). Some of the changes to the can include adding a resealable lid and an alcohol facts label.

Alabama: The Alabama legislature is set to vote on the “Right to Brew” bill (House Bill 9) that would officially decriminalize home brewing in the state. Fingers crossed the legislators in the heart of Dixie will finally get around to it today.

Colorado: Chalk another year up for those opposing full-strength beer in Colorado’s grocery stores. Currently only liquor stores may sell the strong stuff while grocery stores can sell beer with 3.2 percent ABW or less. Rep. Kevin Priola introduced House Bill 1178, but quickly killed it once he realized there was no hope of getting it out of committee. Someday, maybe.

Kansas: While some lawmakers have floated the idea of lifting the happy hour ban for bars, Kansas lawmakers yet again consider legislation to allow alcohol sales at convenience and grocery stores.

Maryland: A bill introduced in January would allow small brewers (making less than 22,500 barrels a year) to self-distribute up to 3,000 barrels a year.

Also in Maryland, a bill has been proposed to allow on-premise sales of beer at production breweries (like Flying Dog brewery).

Massachusetts: Small brewers in the Bay State are floating ideas about how to update laws that would make their businesses more profitable to the benefit of consumers and the state’s economy. Currently, the laws prevent brewers from ending contracts with their wholesaler unless they can prove “just cause” and even then the wholesaler could challenge, tying up the brewer in a long and costly legal fight that few can afford. A bill filed by Rep. Alice Peisch would create an exemption for brewers making less than 6 million barrels a year that would allow them to drop their wholesaler without showing just cause so long as they account for less than 20 percent of the wholesaler’s portfolio and they provide fair compensation.

New Hampshire: House Bill 275 seeks to create a pilot program to sell New Hampshire craft beer in New Hampshire Liquor and Wine Outlet stores. Not everyone is happy with the proposal.

North Dakota: Small brewers are hoping a bill that would allow them to self-distribute makes it through the legislature. There’s a good chance since reports claim the wholesalers -- usually the loudest opponents to any bill that would cut them out of the beer business -- seem to be okay with the proposal.

Pennsylvania: Governor Corbett unveiled his plans to privatize the state’s liquor stores. Most consumers approve of the plan (61 percent according to the Post-Gazette poll), but predictably, New Jersey liquor store owners oppose the idea. I wonder why (hint: it’s because they’ll miss all of those Keystone Staters hopping the border to buy their booze where it’s cheaper).

Tennessee: Tennessee lawmakers are hopeful about a proposal to allow grocery and convenience stores to sell wine, while continue to limit sales of full-strength beer and fortified wines to liquor stores.

Also in Tennessee, lawmakers are considering a proposal to reform the state's beer tax, which is currently the highest in the nation. Proponents of the Beer Tax Reform Act of 2013 say the current scheme is hurting the state’s economy by reducing sales and discouraging craft breweries from setting up shop in the Volunteer State.

Texas: Lawmakers in the Lone Star State are considering lifting some of their “blue” laws that limit alcohol sales on Sundays. Senate Bill 236 and House Bill 421 would abolish the ban on Sunday liquor sales as well as extending the hours stores may sale alcohol by one hour in the morning and evening on Monday through Thursday, allowing sales from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.