Distilling on Tribal Lands Is Now Legal in the U.S.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Chehalis chairman Harry S. Pickernell Sr. at committee hearing for HR 5317. Image courtesy of SevenFifty Daily and Rep. Beutler’s office.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Chehalis chairman Harry S. Pickernell Sr. at committee hearing for HR 5317. Image courtesy of SevenFifty Daily and Rep. Beutler’s office.

Last summer, R Street’s Jarrett Dieterle and Kevin Kosar took to the pages of the New York Times to call for the repeal of an 1834 law that prohibited distilling on tribal lands. At the time, this was the first coverage of this antiquated law in any mainstream outlet, but R Street continued to highlight the law, including in its America’s Dumbest Drunks Laws report (choosing it as the #1 worst law). Now, several months later, a bill repealing the ban has made it through Congress and been signed by the President. Dieterle discusses this repeal effort in an article for the popular drinks site SevenFifty Daily:

To anyone who’s been paying attention, the success of the modern craft alcohol movement is no secret. From the latest chic brewery opening down the street to the new distillery producing that small-batch liqueur you just can’t live without, the fruits of entrepreneurial adventures in alcohol are everywhere. But until just a few days ago, one group in the United States was conspicuously left out of the current craft alcohol renaissance: Native Americans.

Under an 1834 federal law enacted during the Andrew Jackson administration, it was illegal for anyone to set up a distillery on tribal land for the purpose of manufacturing “ardent spirits.” Penalties for violating the law included fines and asset forfeiture. This law remained on the books for almost two centuries until Congress and the president, in a rare bipartisan moment, finally repealed it in early December 2018.

The reasons it took so long to relegate this antiquated law to the dustbin of history are far from glamorous but contain the seeds of a quintessentially American story: A law born from an outdated and offensive view toward Native Americans finally gave way to entrepreneurial desire and irrepressible market forces…

Read the rest here.