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Pennsylvania Governor Calls for Cannabis Legalization and State Alcohol Tax Relief

Pennsylvania's governor is urging the state's legislature to legalize recreational marijuana and pass a six-month reduction or cancellation of the state’s alcohol tax on the hospitality industry. Pennsylvania would join 11 other states and Washington, D.C., in fully legalizing marijuana, which can be lucrative for states. “It’s almost, from a legislative and a state government perspective, a no brainer, because it’s a new source of revenue that you don’t have at a time where you need it desperately,” McDermott Will & Emery partner Alva C. Mather said in a recent Brewbound article. “And there’s lots of precedent for how to make it work in many other states, so the tide has turned quite a bit in the last several years where I think it’s not as taboo as it used to be.” “States are in a very difficult situation in light of the pandemic, in terms of how they’re going to be able to generate more revenue and more job opportunities,” Mather said. “This is an...

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Five Tips for Making Boozy Ice Cream That’s Legal

When you think of the relationship between alcohol and food, the classics come to mind: tiramisu, coq au vin and beer cheese. While there is a long culinary tradition of using alcohol in food, the newest trend is to utilize alcohol in innovative ways in the culinary world. Recently, a popular food/alcohol combo has been in the freezer aisle where alcohol has lent its flavor to ice cream and freezer pops. Fans consider this a win-win…it cools us down in the summer and acts as a little adult refreshment at the same time. As the tasty treats gain popularity, more and more states are approving the manufacture and sale of such items.  Recently, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that allows ice cream to be mixed with liquor. He stated this would, “help New York’s dairy farmers, liquor and craft beverage producers, dairy processors and manufacturers, food retailers, and restaurants meet the increasing consumer demand for these new and innovative...

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Non-Alcoholic Beer Regulation 101

As part of the general move to better-for-you beverages, non-alcoholic (NA) options have been and will likely continue to be on the rise. However, how NA is treated, or not treated, as “beer” has significant impact on its potential route to market. The below summarizes the overall treatment of NA beer under US federal law, as well as examples of restrictions on direct-to-consumer (DTC) shipments imposed by certain states. FEDERAL TREATMENT OF NA BEER Tax Treatment: The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s (TTB) regulations define “beer” as a fermented beverage containing 0.5% or more alcohol by volume (ABV) and brewed or produced from malt, wholly or in part, or from any substitute for malt. (See: 27 C.F.R. § 25.11.) The regulations refer to a malt beverage containing less than 0.5% ABV as a “cereal beverage.” (See: 25.11.) Because NA beer contains less than 0.5% ABV, TTB will not treat it as a “beer” under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), and...

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Detailed Summary of Federal Requirements for Production of Hand Sanitizing Products

To meet the growing need for hand sanitizing products, various federal agencies including the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), Federal Drug Administration (FDA), Health and Human Services (HHS) and Congress have been rapidly updating and providing guidance for alcohol manufacturers interested in producing or supplying alcohol for the production of these important products. The below neatly summarizes the key issues surrounding the production of alcohol for use in or production of hand sanitizers for distilled spirts plants (DSPs). Tax Treatment: Denatured and undenatured alcohol may be withdrawn from the bonded premises after December 31, 2019 and before January 1, 2021 free of tax for use in or contained in hand sanitizer made in accordance with FDA guidance. Formula requirements: No prior formula approval is required for DSPs or industrial alcohol users if: the hand sanitizer is produced in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO)...

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Florida Federal District Court Rules GRAS Regulation Preempts Florida Statute Criminalizing Ingredient

In an important ruling dismissing a proposed class action, the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida ruled that the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) generally recognized as safe (GRAS) regulation preempts a Florida statute that criminalized adding grains of paradise to liquor. More specifically, the Court in Marrache v. Bacardi USA, Inc., 2020 US Dist. LEXIS 13668 (January 28, 2020), ruled that the Florida statute was preempted because it conflicts with the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) and the FDA’s regulations (21 C.F.R. § 182.10) which establish that grains of paradise are GRAS. 2020 US LEXIS 13668, at *4. The case started when Florida resident Uri Marrache purchased a bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin at a Winn-Dixie store in Florida. After consuming the gin, Marrache filed suit under Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, claiming that Bacardi (the producer of Bombay Sapphire) and Winn-Dixie had engaged in...

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Oklahoma Supreme Court Strikes Down New Distribution Statute as Unconstitutional

In a win for alcohol beverage suppliers, on Wednesday the Oklahoma Supreme Court issued an opinion in The Institute For Responsible Alcohol Policy v. State ex rel. Alcohol Beverage Laws Enforcement Comm’n. In a 5-4 ruling, the court struck down as unconstitutional a statute requiring the top 25 wine and spirits brands in the state, by volume, to be offered to all wholesalers without discrimination. The effect of the ruling is that a supplier of any brand of alcohol is free to choose its preferred or potentially exclusive distributor in the State of Oklahoma. As background, Oklahoma has historically prohibited suppliers of wine and spirits from having an exclusive distribution relationship with an Oklahoma wholesaler, and required suppliers to sell their products to any Oklahoma wholesaler desiring to purchase them. For those familiar with the concept of “franchise” laws in the alcohol beverage industry—which typically require suppliers and wholesalers to...

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Eighth Circuit Strikes Down Multiple Missouri Alcohol Beverage Advertising Laws

In another blow to the constitutionality of alcohol beverage laws, the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit struck down on First Amendment grounds a number of Missouri’s alcohol beverage advertising laws on the basis that Missouri failed to meets it burden to demonstrate that such laws both advanced the state’s substantial interest and were narrowly tailored to achieve that interest. At issue in Missouri Broadcasters Ass’n v. Schmitt were familiar alcohol advertising laws that restricted: Suppliers and distributors for advertising at retail on tied house grounds (e., advertising qualified as a “financial interest” in the retailer); Retailers from advertising discounted prices outside of their establishments; and Retailers from advertising below-cost alcohol inside their establishments. In applying the four factor test articulated by the US Supreme Court in Central Hudson to assess the validity of governmental regulation of commercial speech, the Court...

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Federal Alcohol Excise Taxes 101

There are many laws at both the federal and state level that govern the production and distribution of distilled spirits. For example, craft distillers must comply with licensing and permitting requirements, trade practice laws, advertising restrictions, and, depending on the jurisdiction, alcohol franchise law. One of the most fundamental—and most complex—areas of law governing distilled spirits is excise taxes. An article authored by McDermott’s Bethany K. Hatef in the Winter 2020 issue of Artisan Spirit Magazine provides a high-level overview of the federal alcohol excise tax system and some specific features that apply to distilled spirits, and also explains the current status of the Craft Beverage Modernization Act, the legislation temporarily providing for reduced tax rates for certain amounts of distilled spirits. Access the full article. Originally published in Artisan Spirit Magazine: Winter 2020.

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Congressional Committee Takes Historic Step Toward Decriminalizing Marijuana

For the first time in American history, a congressional committee approved a marijuana legalization bill. On November 20, 2019, after more than two hours of debate, the House Judiciary Committee approved the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019 (H.R. 3884) in a 24 to 10 vote. If the MORE Act becomes law, it would effectively end the federal prohibition of cannabis in the United States. Currently, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin and LSD, under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs are those that the federal government considers to have no proven or acceptable medical use and a high abuse potential. The MORE Act, if passed into law, would remove marijuana from Schedule I. The House Judiciary Committee’s actions are particularly significant on the heels of Veterans Day. Under current federal law, doctors at the VA can discuss marijuana use with patients, but they cannot recommend it, even in states...

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House Judiciary Committee to Consider De-Scheduling Bill

This Wednesday, November 20, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a markup of H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act). The bill’s sponsors and advocates for cannabis normalization say the legislation is the most comprehensive ever considered by Congress. In fact, due to the bill’s sprawling reforms, it was referred to eight separate committees for consideration according to their discrete jurisdictions. The Judiciary Committee will be the first to consider the bill and the Committee members will have opportunities to amend it. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) is the bill’s lead sponsor and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He introduced the bill in July and will preside over Wednesday’s markup. Fifty-four Democrats and one Republican have cosponsored the MORE Act. The most significant provision of the MORE Act decriminalizes marijuana by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act Schedule. The bill also...

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