322! That’s how many alcohol-related bills I tracked during the 2021 legislative cycle.
104 bills passed
182 bills failed
36 bills are still pending
When all is said and done, it’s highly likely that twice the number of bills that passed this year will have failed. This is largely the result of a) too many bills and not enough time in the 2021 sessions, and b) an unusually large number of bills that seemed to evolve from “throw it against the wall and see if it sticks” efforts.
Of the 104 bills that have passed so far this year, surely it comes as no surprise that many of them were spurred by efforts to provide COVID relief to the retail tier and expand the various ways consumers obtain their favorite adult beverages. Several states passed bills that permanently allow extended hours of sale for both on and off-premises retailers, curbside and direct-to-consumer delivery (from retailers), and direct-to-consumer shipping (from manufacturers). Other bills permitted drinks-to-go from on-premise retailers, but not all of these bills provided permanent allowances. There were a small handful of states that included sunset dates for the privilege. The same holds true for the bills that were passed allowing the use of sidewalks and patios as consumption areas – some were permanent, and some were temporary.
Following the more established trends from the past few years, the 2021 legislative sessions also resulted in a few more states kicking state residency requirements to the curb (for license applicants), allowances for retailers to pay wholesalers with credit cards, creation of social or common consumption areas, expansion of the types of acceptable ID for verification of age, and permissions for automated pour/self-serve machines at on-premises locations.
As industry groups and legislators begin the planning for next year’s bills (most will be filed in Q1 2022), I expect we’ll see another very busy session. I think we’ll see:
- continued pushes for expanded to-go and delivery permissions for on and off-premises retailers
- continued growth in the number of states that allow small brewers and distillers to ship direct-to-consumer
- increased efforts to allow wine and spirits sales at grocery stores
- endeavors to lower the minimum age to sell, serve, and deliver alcohol
- attempts to privatize a few control states
- new definitions and permissions for drink pods and boozy sweets (chocolates, cupcakes, ice cream, etc)
- allowances for digital IDs to verify age
- and just maybe ….. attempts to create guardrails for CBD beverages within state borders (… I suspect the industry is getting tired of waiting for the FDA to issue guidance or approval.)
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Director, Regulatory Affairs / Fintech