Alcohol, Tobacco, and Controlled Substances: An Overview
Health and other public concerns have generated detailed Federal and state regulation of the sale and possession of alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, and a wide range of other "controlled substances." The distinctive history of Prohibition, repealed by the Twenty-First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, gives particular complexity to the mix of Federal and state law governing alcohol.
Absent any specific regulation, these substances are treated like all other forms of personal property. However, the general rights of property are subject to so-called "police power" regulations of the state, local, and federal governments.
The regulation of alcohol is generally focused on "intoxicating beverages" with the exact definition of "intoxicating" varying from statute to statute. In many jurisdictions, it has been held that the list of liquors subject to regulatory or prohibitive enactments, particularly when such a list is followed by an expression akin to "or other intoxicating liquors" must be intoxicating in fact. Many statutes either refer to "intoxicating liquors" generally, or prescribe an alcoholic percentage cut off. In Mississippi, it has been held that the prohibition of the sale of alcoholic liquor does not apply to a beverage containing less than two tenths of one percent (0.2%) of alcohol.
The police powers of the Federal government are limited to regulating matters which are connected with one of the powers expressly granted to the government by the U.S. Constitution, and which do not infringe on the police powers of the states. This means that the Federal government lacks the power to regulate liquor sales by one citizen to another within the territorial limits of a given state, or to prescribe liquor-related business within any state. Because of the commerce clause, however, the Federal government can and does regulate the importation and interstate transportation of intoxicating liquors; see the Federal Alcohol Administration Act of 1935, 27 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq.. The federal government also has the power to regulate liquor sales in D.C., and where it has exclusive authority such as on government owned military reservations, and with Indian tribes. In all other situations, the states' police power controls alcoholic beverage law. The federal government has, however, used financial incentives built into its funding of highways to establish a national minimum drinking age. See 23 U.S.C. § 158.
menu of sources
- 18 U.S.C., Chapter 59 - Liquor Traffic
- 18 U.S.C., Chapter 114 - Trafficking in Contraband Cigarettes
- 21 U.S.C., Chapter 13 - Drug Abuse Prevention and Control
- 21 U.S.C., Chapter 14 - Alcohol and Drug Abuse Educational Programs and Activities
- 21 U.S.C., Chapter 16 - Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation
- 21 U.S.C., Chapter 18 - President's Media Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention
- 21 U.S.C., Chapter 20 - National Drug Control Program
- 27 U.S.C. - Intoxicating Liquors
Federal Agency Regulations
- Code of Federal Regulations:
Federal Judicial Decisions
- U.S. Supreme Court:
- U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals:
State Judicial Decisions
- N.Y. Court of Appeals:
- Appellate Decisions from Other States
Key Internet Sources
- Drug Enforcement Administration
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms
- U.S. Department of Justice
- Center for Substance Abuse Research (University of Maryland)
- United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
- National Institutes of Health: Alcohol Policy Information System
Useful Offnet (or Subscription- $) Sources
- Good Starting Point in Print: 2004 Edition, Drugs in Litigation: Damage Awards Involving Prescription and Nonprescription Drugs, Michie, Charlottesville, Virginia (2004)