CVS may be putting out their cigarette sales, but liquor restrictions are lighting up across the country.
Since 2002, states have slowly been loosening laws that have banned access to liquor. For example, between then and now, the number of states that allow liquor sales on Sunday has jumped from 23 to 39. Forty-four states now allow you to taste alcoholic products while you shop. And of all states, South Carolina is the only remaining that prohibits alcohol sales on Election Day.
What do looser regulations mean for the industry?
MarketWatch notes that spirits sales have increased by 4.4% to $22.2 billion. Bourbon skyrocketed 10.2% in 2013 alone. The only losers in the alcohol industry is big beer. But, as many economists note, free markets are pretty bad for big business. As Timothy Carney writes, “Often getting regulated is profitable when you’re a big business, because it crushes the small guys.” So guess what’s happening? Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors are going down, but in their wake, the craft beer industry grew 15% by volume and 17% by retail dollars in 2012 alone.
Some might be wondering: why do these laws still exist? Simply put, laws set into place 95 years ago under prohibition are still slowly dying. The United States’s liquor industry continues to suffer from the temperance movement that started in the 1830s. But today, incentives have surely changed. The biggest? States are making bank off of increased alcohol purchases in tax revenue. For example, a DISCUS study found if Minnesota lifted its Sunday sales ban, the state could collect an additional $15 million in extra taxes in one year alone.
Unsurprisingly, Minnesota is considering reversing their no-Sunday sales policy this year.
This has fantastic implications for ending prohibition on other drugs, namely marijuana, in the coming years. The drug has already added $1.24 million to Colorado’s tax revenue. Experts are guessing that the stoner state will make $67 million from marijuana this year alone. And before libertarians start extruding absolutist rhetoric, remember that the first step should be opening up markets, then focusing on tax burdens.
Alcohol prohibition is finally going the way of the speakeasy, with fantastic implications for ending prohibition on other drugs as well. Markets are opening, boozers are guzzling, and alcohol is safer for all. Cheers to that!