Michigan Alcohol Law and the Politics of Corruption

I don’t know if it is common knowledge, but it certainly comes as no surprise to many people when they discover that their state has irrational and arbitrary alcohol related laws. The question is what to do about them.

What’s unfortunate is that in nearly every case in which such laws are discovered, the only way to remove the idiocy is to sue the state. Take Michigan for example.

One bar owner in Ann Arbor recently discovered it is a violation of the law to put a political campaign placard up in his window that advocates for the election of a particular candidate. The  law reads:

“A licensee shall not display advertising that advocates the election of a person or political party on the inside or outside of a licensed premise”

So, the bar owner, with the help of the ACLU, is suing the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) asking for an injunction against enforcement of the provision. And why not? the penalty for putting up a political sign is up to $300 and the potential for suspension of one’s liquor license.

Here’s the tragic part. When asked about the purpose of the No Political Sign in Bar Law, the MLCC spokesperson Andrea Miller responded, “The rationale is unclear”.

Michigan’s Liquor Control Commission is notorious for the doing the bidding of the most powerful of the most politically connected players in the alcohol business:

-The MLCC supported bans on direct shipment of wine to consumers at the behest of the state’s wholesaler middlemen.

-The MLCC, upon losing its battle to keep the winery to consumer direct shipping ban in place, sought to level the playing field by banning MICHIGAN wineries from shipping wine to Michigan residents—at the behest of the state’s wholesaler middlemen.

-The MLCC supported a ban on retailer to consumer wine shipping at the behest of the state’s wholesaler middlemen.

-The MLCC, after being told their ban on retailer shipping was unconstitutional, supported a new law that made it illegal for in-state and out-of-state wine retailers to use common carrier shippers to deliver wine to consumers—at the behest of middle men wholesalers.

So, I’m going to go out on a limb and take a guess at what the rationale originally was for the No Political Signs in Bars law. I’m betting that some time ago, a member of the Board of the MLCC, a politically connected brewer or a politically connected wholesaler was running for office, saw a sign in a bar promoting the candidacy of his opponent and followed up by having a law passed that banned all such things and got the MLCC to support it.

I could be wrong. But if things were as they are today in Michigan, then that kind of corruption by the MLCC makes perfect sense.


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