January 19, 2001, 12:00 AM

Court Lets States Control of Alcohol Distribution

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has refused to reconsider its decision to prohibit the unlicensed direct shipment of alcohol from Internet companies to customers. On Sept. 14, the Seventh Circuit overturned a lower court opinion in a case involving Indiana that stated that the Commerce Clause of the 21st Amendment bars states from regulating imports of wine, liquor and beer. Rather, the Appeals Court ruled that states have full authority under the 21st Amendment to control beverage alcohol sales distribution and importation into each state. Texas is involved in a similar lawsuit to define the state's rights of alcohol distribution. For the last nine months, the state has been waiting for a ruling from U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon in Houston who has been reviewing a challenge to the Constitution's Commerce Clause. Other states reviewing similar cases include New York, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, and Michigan. Last month, President Clinton signed a similar law known as the 21st Amendment Enforcement Act that will give states more authority to enforce their laws against illegal shipments of alcoholic beverages from out-of-state companies. The law permits any Attorney General to file an action in federal court for an injunction to stop illegal shipments if there is reasonable cause to believe that state laws regulating the importation and transportation of alcohol are being violated.

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