A bill on the way to Gov. Tate Reeves that authorizes home delivery of alcohol may not measure up to the impact of other legislation on teacher pay raises and reduced prison sentences. But the alcohol delivery proposal is nonetheless fascinating as one more step in the state’s relatively quick relaxation toward what used to be forbidden products.
Alcohol sales have been legal in Mississippi since 1966, but there are plenty of restrictions on which businesses can sell wine and liquor. That won’t change if Gov. Tate Reeves signs the home delivery bill into law: The drinks have to come from licensed stores in the state, and deliveries from outside the state would still be prohibited.
Even so, anyone who’s lived here for a few decades has to be shaking their heads in amazement at a law that allows anybody over 21 to order up a bottle of wine or whiskey and have it delivered to them at home. It’s just never been that way.
While it is true that 30 other states already allow home delivery of alcohol, those states did not wait 88 years to officially end Prohibition — the way Mississippi did with a law that took effect three months ago.
Interestingly enough, that same law also legalized the possession of alcohol throughout Mississippi. Sales in the 29 counties that prohibited it can begin if voters in a town or county approve.
Mississippi’s battle with alcohol always has been one of morals vs. money. In 1878 a Prohibitionist minister, Bishop C.B. Galloway, called liquor a public evil that caused good men to commit sins and embarrass themselves.
So true. But alcohol also produces a tidy amount of taxes for the state, and over the decades the lure of more money carried the day in Jackson. There’s no way to tell whether home delivery of alcohol will lead to an uptick in sales (and tax revenue). But for good or bad, it would make booze easier to buy.
Money is the same reason Mississippi now has a bunch of casinos along the Gulf Coast and the Mississippi River, not to mention the more recent addition of multi-million-dollar lottery games and the scratch-off cards that have become staples of convenience stores and other businesses.
In fact, the Legislature missed another “sin tax” revenue opportunity when it chose not to set down its own laws for the sale of medical marijuana. Voters approved a referendum for that last year — by a surprisingly large margin, it must be noted.
The constitutional amendment governing marijuana restricts the sale of the product to people with specific medical conditions, but it also goes very lightly on taxes. Which, from a revenue standpoint, is a giant mistake, since taxes on other products like alcohol and tobacco are anything but light.
As for alcohol home delivery, the governor gets the final word. It’s not a done deal; Reeves occasionally delivers a surprising veto, and that might happen here. However, support in the Legislature may be strong enough to override it. That would be just as eye-opening as the alcohol legislation itself.