The war on booze and Montana's contribution to the Smithsonian 

The errancy of our never-ending War on Drugs is bad enough. Now we have to gird our loins for an equally misguided and interminable social battle—The War on Booze.

It was two years ago that we first told you about Save the Grapes, the Napa Valley-based group of independent vintners who took it upon themselves to beat back the resurgence of backward, recidivist, and anti-alcoholic sentiment in our country, especially in places like Montana. In 1999, they threw their support behind a bill in the Montana Legislature that would have finally made it legal to receive alcoholic beverages through the mail, availing you drinkers out there to the possibilities of buying wine over the Internet, for example, or subscribing to the Beer of the Month Club. But the measure was soundly defeated.

Now Save the Grapes is back, because the spirit of Prohibition is, too. This time around, their target is Senate Bill 48, a measure that would make it a felony to ship or order beer, wine or hard cider from out of state. That would include not only mail order and Internet sales, but also driving to California, loading up your trunk with a case of Meridian Chardonnay and driving it back here, if for whatever reason you were compelled to do such a thing. Technically, the bill, introduced by Billings Republican Sen. Mike Sprague, would reword Montana’s existing law on the matter, which currently allows a consumer to “bring into the state” up to three gallons of the spirituous beverages each year, and carries no felony charge for violating the code.

So why the booze backlash? Save the Grapes says that it’s the lobbyists for the liquor wholesalers who are pushing this bill through. (They’ll be the only ones who will be allowed to import the alcohol under the measure). Supporters, though, agree with the sentiment expressed in the bill that importing out-of-state alcohol “poses a serious threat to the public health, safety, revenue of economy of this state.”

Senate Bill 48 is going before the Senate Business and Labor Committee—of which Sen. Sprague happens to be vice chairman—as we go to press. Tipplers, guzzlers and hard-drinking journalists everywhere have their fingers crossed that sober minds might not prevail, and that the American institutions of intemperance, immoderation and bootlegging shall not perish from the face of the earth.

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