As the U.S. government looks for ways to save the U.S. Postal Service, a recent bill passed the senate that includes provisions allowing the USPS to ship wine, beer, and spirits. Private carriers have been shipping wine for decades, but the USPS has been banned from doing so for over one hundred years. 18 U.S.C. § 1716(f), the 1909 law that prohibits the USPS from shipping “all spirituous, vinous, malted, fermented or other intoxicating liquors of any kind” remains on the books. That law pre-dates prohibition by ten years, and has never been repealed. That would change if Senate Bill 1789 becomes law. The bill was passed in the senate on April 25, 2012, and Section 405 provides that wine, beer, and distilled spirits are considered “mailable” by the USPS as long as a) it is consistent with the laws of the states where the shipment is initiated and where delivery is to be made, b) the addressee is at least 21 years of age, and c) the addressee provides a signature and a valid government-issued photo identification upon delivery.
In order to become law, Senate Bill 1789 still needs to pass through the House of Representatives. The bill was designed to address the moratorium on post office closures that expired on May 15, 2012, which had already been delayed from an original deadline of last December. Since no law was passed by the May 15 deadline, the USPS is moving forward with a modified plan for post office closures. 48 post offices are currently scheduled to close in August, 2012, 92 in 2013, and another 89 in 2014. The impending August closures put pressure on the House to pass a bill as soon as possible if they are going to save those post offices. We’ll keep you posted on their progress and whether permitting the USPS to ship alcohol remains a part of the proposed legislation.