Archive for March 15th, 2011

Liquor Law Again

I was in Mississippi many years ago, and stopped at a liquor store.

Mississippi was a dry state.

But as I said, the twenty-first amendment’s blanket declaration that state law is sovereign over Federal law puts terms like “dry state” into the Twilight Zone.

Mississippi law was straight Prohibition. It was officially listed as a dry state.

But who could ENFORCE that law? Mississippi declared that only county authorities could enforce state-wide Prohibition. So if you elected a sheriff who chose not to enforce the law, it could be a very wet county indeed.

Please note that I am not kidding you here.

The only problem with leaving enforcement to the local sheriff was that the state wanted the huge source of revenue represented by the liquor tax.

Once again, I kid you not the slightest: instead of a liquor tax, the state imposed a “Black Market Tax.”

When someone sold something, not specifying what it might be, in violation of state law, but state authorities were prohibited from preventing its sale, a tax must be paid to the state on this Black Market Item, whatever it may be.

And if the tax was not paid, the state could enforce it. There was a Black Market Commission for that.

Today the micro breweries for beer are a big thing. Every one of them is gigantic compared to some of the liquor sellers I saw in Mississippi. One half-pint bottle of clear liquid I found in a store had a white label stuck on it with the words, in ink, “…. Smith, Route 3, Hattiesburg, Mississippi.”

It had the Federal and Black Market Commission stamps on it, and was as legal as Budweiser.

Some counties were dry. Some were as wet as New Orleans. All in a state which officially had no change in its law since the Coolidge Administration.

A doctor acquaintance of mine had a girl friend from New Orleans. She had lived there all her life. One day when she was visiting him in North Carolina they went to a liquor store.

She had never seen a liquor before in her entire life.

In New Orleans you bought liquor off the shelf, the same way you bought Campbell’s Soup, Every Seven-Eleven had liquor on the shelf.

She had trouble with the concept of a liquor store the way you might have a problem with someone taking you to a Mustard Store.


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