Friday, March 7, 2014

Obama's Illegal Bet

I'm sure most of you heard the feel-good, fun news story during the Olympics about Obama betting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper a case of beer over each of the USA vs. Canada hockey matches. I think that it's great that Obama used the home-brewed White House beer as his end of the bargain. This is pretty savvy on his end really, since he avoided the issue altogether of whether he was going to bet a craft beer or a macro beer. In any case, I'm glad to see home brewing getting some good press.

The part that I really wanted to get into here though--the part that no one seems to have mentioned--is the depressing part of it all. What Obama did was plainly illegal. Now, I'm not writing here to bash Obama--I'm here to bash our ridiculous prohibition-era laws that are still being enforced. The federal statutes state that a beer can be produced at home without licensing or taxation for "personal or family use." The law further states that home brewed beer can be removed from the premise for "use at organized affairs, exhibitions or competitions such as homemaker's contests, tastings or judging." Giving someone a case of beer after losing a bet on a sporting event clearly wouldn't fall under these provisions.

In Kansas we've got even more restrictive regulations. In Kansas you can't legally give a homebrew to anyone but your family members--not even for a competition. There is a bill moving through the KS legislature that will hopefully resolve this issue, but this doesn't really get to the heart of the matter. The government doesn't regulate home cooks, gardeners, artists, or nearly any other hobbyist creating things in their kitchens, back yards, or garages. You can bake a pie and give it to whomever you want to enjoy it--not so with beer.

I understand the effort to tax and regulate commercial alcohol production, even if I disagree with many of the policies. However, I think it is a vast overreach of outdated morality-based laws that restrict me from giving a home brewed beer to a legal-drinking-age friend of mine as a gift. I'm glad to see some baby steps being taken by our governments on these issues, but we've got a long way to go.


  1. This is a great article for many reasons, but I'll highlight two:

    1. One of the deals that the government used to pass prohibition was the introduction of income tax to replace the taxes collected on alcohol. Before prohibition there was only a temporary income tax to pay for the debt from the civil war. Once that debt was paid, the income tax ended. The same was not true for prohibition. When prohibition ended, the government collected taxes on both income and the sale of alcohol. If it weren't for taxation, I don't believe there would be as much interest in regulating alcohol.

    2. As imperfect as our country is, one of the great things that we have is "rule of law" and that we have decided to respect it and punish those who disobey it. Over the last 80 years, we have added so many laws that many of us could be accused of breaking one law or another, without knowing it.

    Take Kansas and Missouri, who have/had to pass new laws stating exactly what they were allowed to do at home brew meet ups and festivals. I find this depressing. Since when does the government need to prescribe what is done at private events, where all other rules are followed (legal drinking age and sale).

    I don't agree with breaking laws currently on the books. I think with respect to sharing home brew, illegal immigration, and any other current issue we should work towards changing the laws we agree don't help our communities and respect the laws on the books. But let's simplify, instead of making things more complex.

    Here's an idea: Just make a simple addendum to the original 1978 law that you can share/serve beer and wine brewed for personal use within current federal laws (legal age and sale). The states can adopt the addendum.

    1. Well said! I agree about changing the laws rather than breaking them. It's just sad how silly laws like these erode peoples' trust in the whole system.

  2. Obama doesn't care if it wasn't legal; he feels free to break laws he doesn't like, so this doesn't surprise me at all.

  3. Beerbo is a douche.

  4. And you are better?