ALCOHOL LAW ADVISOR
ALCOHOL LAW ADVISOR
Regulatory and Distribution Law Updates for the Alcohol Industry
ALCOHOL LAW ADVISOR
Regulatory and Distribution Law Updates for the Alcohol Industry
General Interest
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TTB Spring 2019 Updates to Semi-Annual Regulatory Agenda

The spring edition of the federal government’s semi-annual Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions (Regulatory Agenda) has been published. Like other federal agencies, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) uses the Regulatory Agenda to report on its current rulemaking projects. The Regulatory Agenda provides glimpses into TTB’s policy focus and aspirations. But, readers should recognize that TTB rulemaking moves very slowly, and the Agency often does not meet the aspirational dates published in the Regulatory Agenda.  The updated Regulatory Agenda lists the following projects of interest: Wines, Distilled Spirits and Malt Beverages In terms of importance, the list must begin with TTB Notice 176—the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to “modernize” the labeling and advertising regulations applicable to all three commodities. Comments on Notice 176 are due on or before June 26, 2019. Three separate entries continue to...

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Congress Can Open Financial Institutions to Legal Cannabis Industry with SAFE Banking Act

Federal statutes create risk for banks that want to operate in the cannabis space. Banks face the threat of civil actions, asset forfeiture, reputational risk, and even criminal penalties if they do business with customers in the cannabis industry. Further, because most banks will not touch cannabis money, the growers, processors, and retailers in the industry must often operate on a cash-only basis. The Internal Revenue Service has even had to build “cash rooms” to accommodate taxes paid by legal cannabis companies. Access the full article.

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FDA Releases Warning Letters to CBD and Hemp Oil Companies

Last week the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) made public three new warning letters to Cannabidiol (CBD) and hemp oil product companies sent by FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). FDA has previously targeted cannabis product companies. The new warning letters are consistent with FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s recent statements that the FDA will go after manufacturers of CBD products that make health and wellness claims that FDA views as egregious. For example, the CBD companies in question allegedly marketed their products for Alzheimer’s disease, fibromyalgia, inflammation, skin conditions, autoimmune disorders, anxiety, cancer pain, PTSD and depression, to name a few symptoms. These companies are making food, dietary supplements, and cosmetic products, as well as products for pets (CBD for dogs). Some highlights: One letter specifically calls out a CBD isolate product (blue CBD crystals isolate 1500 mg). Some have advanced arguments that a...

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Washington Court of Appeals Upholds Multi-Million Dollar Fine for 5-Hour Energy Advertising Claims

On March 18, 2019, the Washington Court of Appeals upheld a trial court’s decision that three advertising campaigns for 5-Hour Energy® made by Living Essentials, LLP and Innovative Ventures, LLP (collectively, Living Essentials) violated the Washington Consumer Protection Act (CPA) by making deceptive advertising claims. Living Essentials makes and markets the energy drink 5-Hour Energy®. The three advertising claims at issue involve claims about the efficacy of the drink. Living Essentials claimed or implied that: (1) 5-Hour Energy® was “Superior to Coffee” (Superior to Coffee claim); (2) decaf 5-Hour Energy® was effective “for hours” (Decaf claim); and (3) 73 percent of doctors would recommend 5-Hour Energy® (Ask Your Doctor claim). The trial court found all three advertising claims in violation of the CPA. It also assessed a civil penalty against Living Essentials of $2,183,747 and awarded the State $1,886,866.71 in attorney fees and $209,125.92 in costs....

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The Future of Direct Shipping

In September 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a petition for a writ of certiorari brought before the Court by the Tennessee Retailers in Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association v. Byrd. The petition requested that the Court review the lower court’s decision upholding a finding that Tennessee’s two-year residency requirement for retail license applicants is unconstitutional. Specifically, the question Tennessee retailers posed to the Court is whether the 21st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives states the authority to, consistent with the so-called “Dormant” Commerce Clause of the Constitution, regulate sales of alcohol beverages by imposing residency requirements on retail (or wholesale) license applicants. The court heard oral arguments on January 16, 2019. In an article published by The New Brewer, Marc Sorini and Bethany Hatef discussed the Sixth Circuit’s opinion in the Byrd case, the circuit split it created and the potential impacts of...

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A History of Alcohol Law

In this lunchtime talk at CiderCon 2019 (the annual conference of the US Association of Cider Makers), Marc Sorini discusses the historic development of the current legal structure regulating alcohol beverage businesses. Topics include the origins of “tied house” laws and the evolution of the three-tier system, the often-confusing status of cider under federal law, and cider’s treatment under alcohol excise tax laws. Marc’s talk begins at the 19:30 minute mark. Listen to the full presentation.

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Second Circuit Rejects Total Wine Challenge of Connecticut Pricing Laws

Last week, in Connecticut Fine Wine and Spirits LLC v. Seagull, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a lower court’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit from Total Wine & More challenging parts of Connecticut’s Liquor Control Act and related regulations. Though the decision represents a victory for state alcohol regulatory regimes, the Second Circuit’s ruling was decided on the basis of established antitrust law and did not raise or rely on state regulatory authority under the 21st Amendment. Nonetheless, state alcoholic beverages regulators will embrace the court’s ruling. In Connecticut Fine Wine, Total Wine challenged three sets of provisions in Connecticut’s alcohol laws. First, Total Wine challenged “post-and-hold” provisions. Under the post-and-hold provisions, state-licensed wholesalers are required to post a “bottle price” and “case price” each month with the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection. Those prices are then made...

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House Financial Services Committee to Consider Cannabis Banking Issues

116th Congress’ first cannabis-related hearing Next week, Congress will hold a long-awaited hearing on the future of banking in the cannabis industry. On Wednesday the 13th, the House Financial Services Committee Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions Subcommittee will convene a hearing entitled, “Challenges and Solutions: Access to Banking Services for Cannabis-Related Businesses.” Among the discussion points will be the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which was introduced and championed in the last Congress by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), a member of the committee. The Perlmutter bill provides safe harbor to banks working with businesses in the cannabis industry operating legally within their jurisdiction. Groups including the Credit Union National Association and the Independent Community Bankers of America support such legislative efforts. Last year, a bipartisan group of 19 state attorneys general sent a letter to Congress urging...

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Legal and Policy Issues Surrounding Taprooms

Rapid growth in the number of small and independent breweries that rely on taproom sales has received a lot of attention—not all of it positive—across the beer industry. Until this unprecedented growth, taproom sales went largely unnoticed. Competing retailers, beer wholesalers, and even well-established craft brewers were pleased with steadily growing craft beer sales and consumer demand. As demand has leveled out and competition has increased, taprooms are receiving increased scrutiny. In an article published by The New Brewer, Art DeCelle addresses this disruptive change in a mature market and the unique combination of laws and policies that can oftentimes create confusion. Since each state licensing law authorizing brewery taprooms and brewpubs operations is different, he recommends that brewery owners are best served by gaining a full understanding of their state’s licensing requirements. He notes that some states follow the federal model, treating...

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Congressional Cannabis Caucus – 116th Congress

On Wednesday, January 9, 2019, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) announced the leadership team of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus for the 116th Congress. In addition to Mr. Blumenauer, the Caucus will be co-chaired by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) and Rep. Don Young (R-AK). Mr. Blumenauer helped found the Caucus in 2017 with the goal of providing a bipartisan forum for discussing and collaborating on sensible federal cannabis legislation. The Caucus has a particular focus on harmonizing federal and state laws with regard to medicinal or adult-use of cannabis. The group also works to address issues related to researching cannabis, providing veterans access to medicinal marijuana and business needs, including reforming the tax code. Two of the founding co-chairs have since left Congress: Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who lost his re-election bid in November, and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), who was elected governor of Colorado. The newly-announced...

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