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General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: nathanw on November 14, 2010, 02:08:27 PM

Title: USPS shipping- more legal than I thought?
Post by: nathanw on November 14, 2010, 02:08:27 PM
In another forum, someone asked the usual question about how to ship homebrew, and got the usual set of answers, including admonitions not to use the USPS due to the illegality. However, one person responded to that by citing chapter and verse of the domestic mail manual, with links, and pointed out that the clauses that prohibit shipment of alcohol specifically refer to the technical term "intoxicating liquors", which for the purposes of the DMM is limited to taxable alcoholic beverages, which homebrew, of course, is not.

http://community.livejournal.com/homebrewing/603814.html?thread=4805030#t4805030

This is contrary to what I've been hearing for years. Anyone want to chime in on whether this is true, or if there's another set of technicalities somewhere else that makes it untrue?
Title: Re: USPS shipping- more legal than I thought?
Post by: johnf on November 14, 2010, 02:23:49 PM
Why doesn't that individual quote the portion of the DMM that defines exempt and excepted intoxicating liquors rather than just stating that home brew is one as a matter of fact?

In general, take legal advice from lawyers and not the internet.

Of course, the practical point to be made is that registered mail is going to be slower and more expensive than UPS or Fedex, so why would you choose it, even if it were legal?
Title: Re: USPS shipping- more legal than I thought?
Post by: bonjour on November 14, 2010, 02:47:24 PM
We, the AHA, are having attorneys (who is also a homebrewer) research this for the AHA.  This is one of the important issues for homebrewers that the AHA has been working on. 

When there is something definitive you can be assured that you will hear about it. Until then I would assume the status quo,

DON'T ship beer via the USPS.


If you are an attorney that would like to volunteer and assist with this or another legal matter for the AHA, please PM me and I will put yourself in contact with the appropriate individual with whom you may discuss your desired involvement with.

Thanks.
Title: Re: USPS shipping- more legal than I thought?
Post by: nathanw on November 14, 2010, 03:37:46 PM
Johnf: They do exactly that. They cite and link to the DMM's definition of intoxicating liquors, which itself defers to chapter 51 of the IRS code, and then cite and link to chapter 51, which is where our legal status for homebrewing comes from.

bonjour: I'm aware that this is an issue under active development. However, my understanding prior to this was that USPS shipping was much more clearly prohibited; I would like to understand what interpretation of the existing regulations leads to that conclusion. I have no need to ship via USPS and no need to take such risks, but I am realizing that the assertions that it is illegal to ship homebrew via USPS come from sources no more authoritative than this one that claims it is legal. Furthermore, there's a clear way for a misunderstanding to have developed, based on the clear prohibition on the shipment of taxable (commercial) beer via USPS.

I am not an attorney (and I don't play one on TV or the Internet), but I remain skeptical about what now seem to be unexplained assertions about the state of the law.
Title: Re: USPS shipping- more legal than I thought?
Post by: bonjour on November 14, 2010, 04:29:28 PM
My read of the cited regulations is that ALL beer is subject to tax, even homebrew, but we are exempted from paying taxes.

but I am also not a lawyer so take that with a grain of salt.
Title: Re: USPS shipping- more legal than I thought?
Post by: johnf on November 14, 2010, 04:40:28 PM
Johnf: They do exactly that. They cite and link to the DMM's definition of intoxicating liquors, which itself defers to chapter 51 of the IRS code, and then cite and link to chapter 51, which is where our legal status for homebrewing comes from.




It seems less clear to me than it does to you, but in either case registered mail is more expensive than private parcel services and takes longer to deliver. What is the upside?
Title: Re: USPS shipping- more legal than I thought?
Post by: tumarkin on November 14, 2010, 04:54:07 PM
To further complicate this issue....... it may or may not be illegal to ship homebrew through the USPS, but UPS and FedEx are private companies with their own regulations. They can refuse to ship homebrew (and they have) regardless of whether it's legal or not.

This issue has been on the AHA's radar screen for a number of years. I believe advances were made to UPS & FedEx, as well as some of the smaller carriers, in hopes of making an agreement with a carrier to be the 'official' shipper for homebrew competitions. Unfortunately, we were deemed to small to be of interest.

I believe the latest approach being taken by the AHA is targeting the USPS. I think that is the legal effort Fred referred to. This is obviously of huge interest to both home & pro brewers, but is not one with an easy resolution. While we know that efforts are being made, it's up to us as members of the AHA to let the Governing Committee members & staff how important an issue this is to the members and to be sure that it continues to get the necessary attention & effort until there is a satisfactory resolution.

Title: Re: USPS shipping- more legal than I thought?
Post by: bonjour on November 14, 2010, 05:03:51 PM
I believe the latest approach being taken by the AHA is targeting the USPS. I think that is the legal effort Fred referred to. This is obviously of huge interest to both home & pro brewers, but is not one with an easy resolution. While we know that efforts are being made, it's up to us as members of the AHA to let the Governing Committee members & staff how important an issue this is to the members and to be sure that it continues to get the necessary attention & effort until there is a satisfactory resolution.
As a member of the Governing Committee I can assure you that this is, and will continue to be an item of interest.
Title: Re: USPS shipping- more legal than I thought?
Post by: tumarkin on November 14, 2010, 05:20:18 PM
I believe the latest approach being taken by the AHA is targeting the USPS. I think that is the legal effort Fred referred to. This is obviously of huge interest to both home & pro brewers, but is not one with an easy resolution. While we know that efforts are being made, it's up to us as members of the AHA to let the Governing Committee members & staff how important an issue this is to the members and to be sure that it continues to get the necessary attention & effort until there is a satisfactory resolution.
As a member of the Governing Committee I can assure you that this is, and will continue to be an item of interest.

Thanks, Fred, I know you & the other GC members are all on the same page here. I think I can speak for many AHA members when I say that we appreciate the effort & attention, but want to make sure that adequate resources are made available to carry the effort through to a successful conclusion. This is exactly the kind of issue that makes belonging to the AHA worthwhile - it's not just about a magazine or pub discounts. These type of political issues and the efforts of our association are a huge benefit of membership.
Title: Re: USPS shipping- more legal than I thought?
Post by: denny on November 14, 2010, 05:35:32 PM
We on the GC aren't allowed to say much about the specifics of the AHA efforts to legalize shipping other than to say that it's being worked on at the federal level, it's getting closer all the time, and that legislative efforts are very slow.  IIRC, we have approached it from the angle that nathanw suggests and gotten nowhere.  I also have to believe that if it was not prohibited, one of the AHA legal team would have informed us of it by now.  I'll contact Gary and see if he has anything to ad to the discussion.
Title: Re: USPS shipping- more legal than I thought?
Post by: Pawtucket Patriot on November 14, 2010, 06:01:02 PM
the clauses that prohibit shipment of alcohol specifically refer to the technical term "intoxicating liquors", which for the purposes of the DMM is limited to taxable alcoholic beverages, which homebrew, of course, is not.


[/quote]

Respectfully, I think this is a legally incorrect statement. Homebrew is in fact taxable under the Internal Revenue Code. But, as Fred pointed out, specific per-year gallonages of homebrew are exempt from taxation. Think about it this way: if the exemption were repealed tomorrow, Congress wouldn't have to do anything in order for all of us to have to start coughing up taxes on our homebrew.

I am but one lawyer, however, and reasonable minds may differ.
Title: Re: USPS shipping- more legal than I thought?
Post by: 1vertical on November 15, 2010, 01:55:26 AM
Well as a USPS employee...(and I do not deserve to be flamed) I can say
that inside the organization they are murmuring about lost revenue..and
always solicit ideas for revenue enhancement...and FWIW (not really very much)
I always put in my .02 cents and say "legalize small shipments of homebrew.."
You may just be suprised at the response nation wide because of all the
shipments to competetions ....etc... ;)
Title: Re: USPS shipping- more legal than I thought?
Post by: Hokerer on November 15, 2010, 02:48:08 AM
Well as a USPS employee...(and I do not deserve to be flamed)

So we can call you Cliffy?  Couldn't imagine giving him my beer to ship.
Title: Re: USPS shipping- more legal than I thought?
Post by: MDixon on November 15, 2010, 02:47:19 PM
My personal experience with the USPS is they DO NOT like to ship liquids. They ask each and every time you try to ship something from a post office in my area. This if from the 2010 "A Customer's Guide To Mailing" (emphasis added)
Quote
Keep the Mail Safe: Hazardous and Restricted Materials
Some things cannot be mailed
or can be mailed only in small
quantities for safety and legal
reasons. Some items have
restrictions on how they can be mailed, including:
· Aerosol cans
· Firearms
· Flammable materials
· Liquids and powders
· Lottery tickets
· Poisons
Some items, however, are not
permitted
in the mail, including:
· Alcoholic beverages
· Ammunition
· Drug paraphernalia
· Fireworks and other explosives

When we hosted the NHC one person did ship USPS. The problem with UPS and FedEx probably comes in them not wanting to upset the individual state alcohol laws. Some states do not allow interstate alcohol shipments while others do.

I am not a lawyer nor do I play on one TV...  ;)
Title: Re: USPS shipping- more legal than I thought?
Post by: garyg on November 15, 2010, 03:49:47 PM
We tried the "homebrew is not an intoxicating beverage" route with USPS a few years ago.  USPS officials referred us to the Justice Department.  Justice said no go on shipping homebrew through USPS and that the postal code would need to be changed through legislation in order to allow homebrew to be shipped via USPS.  We are pursuing the legislative route now, but it has been a painfully slow process.  For some reason, politicians seem to think the federal government has more pressing issues than shipment of homebrew.

Unfortunately, federal legislation can't fix the whole problem since states regulate the shipment of alcohol within and across their borders.

Gary
Title: Re: USPS shipping- more legal than I thought?
Post by: Mikey on November 15, 2010, 07:55:56 PM
"For some reason, politicians seem to think the federal government has more pressing issues than shipment of homebrew."

I have to agree with that.
Title: Re: USPS shipping- more legal than I thought?
Post by: bluesman on November 15, 2010, 09:05:00 PM
The good news is that we are working on it and hopefully some day we will be able to ship homebrew through the USPS.

We need to stay postitive toward this effort.

I commend the efforts of the AHA in regard to this issue.
Title: Re: USPS shipping- more legal than I thought?
Post by: narvin on November 15, 2010, 09:10:44 PM
"For some reason, politicians seem to think the federal government has more pressing issues than shipment of homebrew."


And yet they seem to spend plenty of time coming up with laws prohibiting things such as the shipment of homebrew, nipples appearing on television, and so on...


On a semi-related issue, I ordered some beer from De Struise in Belgium.  They sent it USPS  :o  When I checked the tracking information, I thought it was lost forever when I saw "In customs - JFK airport, NY", but lo and behold, it made it to me.