Utah

Watered-Down Beer Turns Into Watered-Down Reforms

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We’ve written about weak beer laws before in this space—including calling for Utah to get rid of its 3.2-percent alcohol-by-weight cap that limited the strength of beers that could be sold by grocery stores in the state. Utah finally reformed the cap earlier this year, leaving Minnesota as the only state left in the country with a 3.2 law. But as R Street’s Jarrett Dieterle points out in a recent piece for Governing, the states that have repealed their 3.2 laws have simply replaced them with a slightly higher cap:

Today, 3.2 laws are mostly a thing of the past. This is because a handful of state legislatures -- including long-time holdouts Kansas, Oklahoma and Utah -- have cleared away their versions in recent years. Minnesota is now the last state to limit convenience stores and groceries to 3.2 beer. (Unlike some former variants of 3.2 laws in other states, Minnesota permits licensed liquor stores to sell stronger beer).

This string of modern reforms may seem to beer-lovers like cause for celebration, but the reality is that America's weak-beer wars are far from over. Not only does Minnesota still have its law on the books, but many of the states that did repeal their 3.2 laws merely replaced them with slightly less onerous versions.

For instance, while Kansas overturned its 3.2 law this year, it ended up only raising the permissible alcohol level for beer to 6 percent alcohol-by-volume. Because of the different units of measure -- the original 3.2 laws used alcohol-by-weight, whereas Kansas' new limit uses alcohol-by-volume -- the reform is less than meets the eye: A 6 percent ABV beer is actually only a 4.7 percent ABW brew, a disappointingly modest increase. Oklahoma did slightly better in raising its threshold to 8.99 percent ABV (around 7 percent ABW) while Utah was only able to muster a raise to 5 percent ABV (around 4 percent ABW).

The larger issue is that these new limits are still completely arbitrary and especially unsuited to the modern craft-beer era…

Read the rest here.

Effort to Lower BAC Level Spreads to More States

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Last year, Utah became the first state to lower the blood-alcohol limit for drunk driving from .08 to .05. Utah’s change was followed by a report from the National Academy of Sciences, calling for more states to follow suit. Now, several states are considering .05-level legislation, including Michigan, California, and New York. The OC Register’s editorial board weighed in one why a lower limit could be counterproductive:

Many people drink less while out at pubs or restaurants to avoid getting stopped for DUI. Such arrests can lead to jail stays, costly legal bills and the loss of one’s driver’s license. People who actually are impaired deserve those harsh punishments, but we fear that reducing the legal limit will mainly ensnare people who might not be impaired. The goal should be removing drunks from the road, not arresting non-drunks.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data show that 92 percent of alcohol-related fatalities involve a driver with a BAC of 0.10, according to Jackson Shedelbower of the American Beverage Institute. This confirms other information we’ve seen: the main drunken-driving dangers come from a relatively small group of heavy drinkers, not from people who have had a glass of wine or two with dinner…

We fear that lowering the BAC will simply make it easier for police agencies to set up checkpoints and then issue press releases about the growing number of drunken drivers that they have removed from the road. Yet it’s better to divert scarce resources to programs and policing efforts that capture the real scofflaws…

Read the rest here.

Utah Partially Repeals Its Weak Beer Laws

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In December of last year, R Street’s Jarrett Dieterle took to the pages of The Salt Lake Tribune to call on Utah politicians to scrap the state’s ‘weak beer’ law, which forbids grocery stores from selling beer over 3.2 percent alcohol by weight. According to the Tribune, Utah lawmakers have reached a deal to raise the limit to 4.0 percent, although they were unable to secure a full repeal:

Utah lawmakers have struck a deal to let higher-alcohol beer be sold in Utah grocery and convenience stores.

House members signed off on the measure Wednesday by a 61-14 vote, sending the bill back to the Senate for a final vote that is expected to occur Thursday.

This second substitute bill would boost the cap on retail beer from 3.2 percent to 4 percent by weight, a level that would include the majority of beer that already is in retail outlets, said bill sponsor, Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton…

The initial version of SB132 would have hiked the alcohol limit on retail beer from its current 3.2 percent by weight to 4.8 percent. Utah’s predominant faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, opposed that plan.

Last week, that proposal, which already had been approved by the Senate, was gutted by a House committee and replaced with language that would create a task force to study the issue.

Wednesday’s version is a blend of the two bills. 

Read the rest here.

More of the craziest state alcohol laws

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We at the R Street Institute recently debuted our America’s Worst Drinks Laws report, recounting what we viewed as the 12 worst alcohol laws in America. Insider has gotten into the act with a list of “7 states that have strict laws about how and when you can drink alcohol,” including interesting ones from Alaska, Utah, and Massachusetts:

[E]ach state still has its own unique liquor laws, including where you can buy alcohol and what times you're allowed to buy it. Many states have time restrictions on Sundays and restrictions on obtaining alcohol licenses…

Bars and liquor stores can't open until polls close on election days in Alaska.

On election days in Alaska, businesses that sell alcohol must stay closed until polls close. It is also illegal to be drunk on the premises of a bar or restaurant that sells alcohol, and bars can't sell alcohol at a discounted rate unless the discount is regularly given every day of the week…

In Massachusetts, out-of-state IDs aren't proof of age at bars.

Massachusetts has some of the most strict alcohol laws, including that bars don't have to accept out-of-state IDs as proof of age. Happy hoursfree drinks, and drinking games like beer pong, are also prohibited in the state…

For the rest of the article, see here.

It's Time to Repeal Utah's 'Weak Beer' Law

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Utah is one of just two states in the country that permits grocery stores to only sell beer with 3.2-percent alcohol content or less. R Street’s Jarrett Dieterle took to the pages of The Salt Lake Tribune to call on Utah lawmakers to repeal this outdated restriction:

As Utah lawmakers begin the 2019 legislative session, they may be forced to finally confront one of the state’s most notorious legal relics. Utah remains one of only two states in America to forbid grocery convenience stores from selling beer containing more than 3.2 percent alcohol. Any beer with a higher alcohol content — which, in this era of craft brewing, is most modern beers — can only be sold at state-run liquor stores. Utah legislators would be wise to recognize this law for what it is: A woefully outdated rule that handicaps market forces and limits consumer freedom.

So-called “weak beer” laws trace their heritage back 85 years to the end of Prohibition. In an underappreciated historical moment, President Franklin Roosevelt and Congress passed a law called the Cullen-Harrison Act March 22, 1933, nearly nine months before Prohibition was officially repealed. The act allowed states to pass legislation that would permit the production of 3.2-percent beer — a big step forward at a time when alcohol production was prohibited across the country. The Cullen-Harrison Act was eventually superseded when Prohibition was repealed in toto, but many of the state-level 3.2-percent beer laws it permitted stayed on the books.

Over the last several decades, more and more states have taken steps to repeal these laws, but Utah has remained a stubborn outlier…

Read the rest here

Utah to require grocery stores to apply for new state license to sell beer

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Utah currently only allows grocery stores to sell weak 3.2 ABV beer, and now state alcohol regulators are set to require the stores to apply for a new state-issued license to continue selling beer at all. According to Fox13now.com, the new rules are set to take effect this year:

Under a new law passed by the legislature, every single grocery and convenience store in Utah that wants to sell beer will have to apply for a liquor license.

They will apply for "off-premise" beer licenses that will subject them to new regulations from Utah's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The DABC said it will begin taking applications in July, when the law takes effect.

"The licenses were previously local and now with the new legislation, it will be overseen by the state," said DABC Commissioner Neal Berube.

Mom-and-pop convenience stores and mega-grocery chains will face inspections and, if there's violations, fines or revocation of their beer license. There are also new restrictions being put in place limiting beer displays to only two areas in a store and signage clearly warning that people are purchasing an alcoholic beverage...

Read the rest here.

New Study Calls for Lowering the Drunk Driving Threshold

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The National Academy of Sciences has released a lengthy report on drunk driving, which recommends, among other things, lowering the blood-alcohol level for what constitutes drunk driving to .05 from .08. Fox News reports:

"A prestigious scientific panel is recommending that states significantly lower their drunken driving thresholds as part of a blueprint to eliminate the "entirely preventable" 10,000 alcohol-impaired driving deaths in the United States each year.

The U.S. government-commissioned, 489-page report by a panel of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released Wednesday throws the weight of the scientific body behind lowering the blood-alcohol concentration threshold from 0.08 to 0.05. All states have 0.08 thresholds. A Utah law passed last year that lowers the state's threshold to 0.05 doesn't go into effect until Dec. 30.

The amount of alcohol required to reach 0.05 would depend on several factors, including the person's size and whether the person has recently eaten. A 150-pound man might be over the 0.05 limit after two beers, while a 120-pound woman could exceed it after a single drink, according to the American Beverage Institute, a national restaurant group.

The panel also recommended that states significantly increase alcohol taxes and make alcohol less conveniently available, including reducing the hours and days alcohol is sold in stores, bars and restaurants..."

More here.

Both the American Beverage Licensees and the Distilled Spirits Council issued statements opposing the report's call for lowering the threshold, arguing that doing so distracts from efforts to crackdown on repeat drunk driving offenders and heavy binge drinkers, who constitute the majority of drunk drivers on the road today.

As Fox News article notes, Utah recently passed a law lowering its drunk driving threshold to .05, a change which was met with severe resistance (even the founder of MADD opposed the change). In fact, Utah's governor has suggested that the new law might be tweaked in response to the pushback.

Utah Governor Suggests New DUI Law Could Be Tweaked

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Earlier this year, Utah signed a controversial DUI law that would lower the blood-alcohol limit for drunk driving to .05, from .08. This gave Utah the lowest DUI limit in the nation (see previous DrinksReform.org coverage here). Perhaps in response to blowback concerning this change--even MADD came out against it--Gov. Gary Herbert is signaling that the law could be reformed, according to The Salt Lake Tribune:

"While he’s backed off plans to call a special legislative session this year to alter Utah’s new toughest-in-the-nation drunken driving law, Gov. Gary Herbert on Thursday outlined some major changes he would like to see next year.

Those include imposing lighter penalties for those who barely exceed the new 0.05 percent blood alcohol limit for impairment, while continuing existing tougher punishment for those who violate the current 0.08 standard.

Another option, Herbert said, may be to delay the effective date of the law — now set to kick in on Dec. 30, 2018 — until after perhaps two or three other states pass similar legislation..."

Read more here.

 

 

Founder of MADD says Utah’s new drunk driving law is an unhelpful distraction

Utah recently lowered the blood-alcohol limit for what constitutes drunk driving (covered previously on DrinksReform.org). In response, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving has written an op-ed opposing the change and claiming it distracts from other serious driver safety concerns:

"Back in the early years at MADD we focused on getting serious drunk drivers off the road. Believe it or not, back then someone who was pulled over for drunk driving might be sent on their way by an officer with little more than a casual "get home safe." As a result many lives were unnecessarily lost, including my daughter's. In the more than 35 years since MADD's founding, we have fought drunk driving ferociously and saved countless lives in the process.

But today, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction — with government agencies pushing states to arrest people for having little to drink before driving instead of pursuing strategies to tackle serious distraction and impairment. Anyone who works in traffic safety knows that most highway deaths are not caused by drivers with low blood alcohol content levels, but are the result of drivers with substance abuse disorders. Focusing finite resources on casual drinkers instead of drug and alcohol abusers is a miscalculation with deadly consequences..."

Read the whole op-ed here: http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/5399043-155/op-ed-founder-of-madd-says-utahs

Herbert signs bill lowering blood-alcohol limit to .05 percent

As highlighted previously on DrinksReform.org, Utah's legislature was considering a controversial bill to lower the blood-alcohol limit; this legislation has now been signed by the governor and will become law:

"Gov. Gary Herbert on Thursday signed the controversial bill that lowers the legal blood-alcohol limit to .05 percent, stressing repeatedly it is an issue of public safety.

"Herbert said earlier in the day during his monthly press conference on KUED Ch. 7 that the decision came after thorough research and in consultation with multiple stakeholders.

"The governor said he will call a special session in August or September, however, "to address the unintended and collateral consequences" of the law, which will be the first in the country to lower the standard for impaired drivers from .08 percent when it takes effect Dec. 30, 2018..."

Read more at: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865676264/Herbert-will-sign-bill-lowering-blood-alcohol-limit-to-05-percent.html