Pennsylvania’s beer distribution system, designed to provide competitive advantages to in-state brewers, is nearly identical to Michigan’s wine distribution system that was the subject of Granholm v. Heald. Yet in the eight years since the U.S. Supreme Court declared such protectionist schemes unconstitutional, the Pennsylvania legislature has introduced (and subsequently failed to pass) only one bill to bring the state into compliance with the decision. Although the bill complied with Granholm, it left in place the three-tier system that was designed by Prohibitionists of another century to increase costs and make distribution of alcohol more difficult. Lawmakers should resist efforts to revive that approach.
With the current talk of shedding part of Fosdick and Scott’s unlamented legacy by privatizing Pennsylvania’s liquor stores, the time is ripe for the Pennsylvania legislature to also remove the chains of Fosdick and Scott’s three-tier system, thus providing relief to brewers and instilling a more efficient and competitive market. Allowing all brewers, regardless of geographic origin or size, to self-distribute may not be the only way to bring Pennsylvania into compliance with Granholm, but it is the best method of promoting free enterprise and competition.