Chipping away at Mississippi prohibition

By Hunter Estes
July 6, 2020

Mississippi was the first state in the nation to enact prohibitionist policies in 1908 and was also the last state to formally end them. 

In 1966, after a raid on a Mardi Gras party led to the arrest of multiple prominent citizens, the state legislature acted to allow counties to decide for themselves whether they wanted to allow the possession and sale of alcohol. However, Mississippi remained a “dry” state, even as the slight policy change ultimately undermined attempts to enforce continued prohibition.

Today, all but 29 counties have voted to become “wet” and thus allow the possession and sale of alcohol, yet a variety of policies on the state and local level live on as enduring relics of the past, continuing to discourage alcohol sale and consumption and undermining local businesses and entrepreneurs around the state.

Two new pieces of legislation take major steps to further Mississippi’s advancement of more alcohol-friendly policy. 

Senate Bill 2545, authored by Sen. Chad McMahan and House Bill 1087, authored by Rep. Trey Lamar both offer substantive reforms that will soon be enacted into official legislative change.

House Bill 1087 is a massive win for Mississippi. The bill officially makes Mississippi a “wet” state for possession, meaning that all citizens can have beer, light spirits, and light wine, no matter the county they live in. After well over 100 years, the long legacy of prohibition in our state is coming to a close. Now, HB 1087 while making the entire state wet for possession, will still necessitate a vote to make new counties wet to the sale of alcohol. This bill also takes the important step of easing restrictions related to the transportation of alcoholic beverages. The bill will take effect January 1, 2021.

Senate Bill 2545 allows for the expanded ability for on-premises consumption of wine, as well as offering access to wine manufacturers to offer samples at “festivals” and similarly designated public events. The bill also expands the overall ability for retailers to offer samples of wine.

As we outlined in High Road to Freedom, the legislature needs to continue the work of expanding alcohol freedom in Mississippi. With each bill that slowly advances the cause of alcohol freedom in Mississippi, the legislature further chips away at the edifice of prohibition, and in so doing further expands the consumer liberties of Mississippi citizens. While many other good bills related to the sale, purchase, and distribution of alcohol died this year, these pieces of legislation are good policy and offer hope for further change in coming years.


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