Alcohol Regulation Roundup: Ale-oween Edition

National: Phusion Projects, the makers of the now-infamous alcoholic energy drink Four Loko, have reportedly reached an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). After making nice with the FDA/TTB by removing the stimulants from their product, the FTC warned that the size of the can could constitute a deceptive act. To avert another government attack, the makers of Four Loko have agreed to add a resealable top to indicate that the drinks hold multiple servings.

Also at the national level, Ken Burns’s newest documentary, “Prohibition,” has the media all atwitter with articles on modern-day issues from marijuana, jobs, and the ongoing discussion about removing the constitutional protection alcohol currently has, as do most economic activities, from discriminatory state laws. See my discussion of Prohibition’s present incarnations here.

California: Gov. Brown signs a law solving a nonexistent problem of alcohol purchase through automated checkout lines at grocery stores. As I wrote about last month, the California grocery store workers’ union has pushed this measure as a way to pressure on one of the state’s largest chains to allow workers to unionize.

Iowa: Higher-proof beer is now on tap in Iowa as the law that capped beer alcohol content at 5 percent was raised to 15 percent when former Iowa Gov. Chet Culver signed a bill into law in March 2010.

Massachusetts: In the last alcohol regulation roundup, I noted that Gov. Coakley approved a ballot measure that would allow residents decide if they want more food stores to be allowed to sell wine and beer. News now it appears the wholesalers in the state are backing a measure that would take the decision out of the hands of voters. The measure would not allow grocery store sales of beer and wine. Instead, it would raise the cap on the number of stores that those who already have liquor licenses may operate — from the current three to five. The argument goes that allowing unlimited numbers of licenses would devalue the licenses that stores paid good money to purchase, which would be unfair. And yet, the current system and the latest proposal make it difficult for anyone new to get a license and will only marginally increase the availability of alcohol for consumers… so, how is that fair?

Michigan: While the tracking aspect is a little creepy here, few folks argue that the new “keg tagging” law will not help law enforcement of underage drinking. The new law requires purchasers of kegs to provide their name, address, and a copy of their driver’s license so that a keg found at underage parties can be traced to its owner. Some are worried that the new registration requirement could have some negative consequences for local businesses. For one, underage drinkers will simply switch to unregistered bottles of whatever they can get. That might very well be something harder than beer. Second, customers who might worry about accidentally losing the sticker, etc., might shy away from purchasing kegs. Furthermore, retailers who don’t want to deal with the sticker clean-off and replacement and the increase in paperwork may stop offering kegs altogether.

Oklahoma: A panel slated to examine the proposal to allow strong beer and wine sales at grocery stores in Oklahoma voted to disband itself without making any recommendations. Members of the task force said that it quickly became clear that no consensus would be reached, thus a coherent recommendation would not have come out of the meetings. Despite the task force’s inability to have a dialogue on the issue, legislators say the proposal will be pursued in the next legislative session.

Wisconsin: Lawmakers in Wisconsin are looking to help their tailgating constituents by passing a bill that would allow liquor and grocery stores to begin selling alcohol earlier. Current law bans the sale of booze before 8am.