Monday, July 11, 2011

Home Distillation

I've been thinking long and hard about the issue of home distillation.   I have looked at the issue and I keep coming back to a basic truth.  We can make our own beer at home just as we can make own own homemade wines.  We can grow our own corn, barley, wheat, rye, grapes, and even hops if we choose to do so.  Yet, our Federal government and all of our state governments prohibit or severely restrict the opportunity to home distill drinkable spirits.  At first I though it was just a left over of the Prohibition era...and maybe in some small way that is true, but really the issue is about the greed of our government for two things...our hard earned money and our obedience.

The Federal Regulation pertaining to the home distillation of beverage spirits can be read here.  In essence, the Federal Government states that we may not produce consumable alcohol at home for our own personal use provided this and that are done to make them happy.  We can produce beer and wine at home for our own personal use proivided we don't sell what we make. We can make our own alcohol-based fuel additives with a much easier permitting process and no excise tax, but we can't make rum, vodka, gin, whiskey, or any other comsumable spirit unless we jump through the regulatory hoops.  Never mind that when we make wine or beer we are half way through the process of making such spirits as cognac and whiskey...and not one single federal permit is necessary to make these beverages.  Oh we can make hooch at home, but the process to get approval to do so is oppressive by any measure or we have to worry about the Feds barging in to destroy what we have made and to confiscate what we have made it with..  The application process is daunting, the regulatory demands are burdensome, and the ultimate goal of all of it is one, specifically the lovely excise tax.  Even if we were to only make say 20 gallons of drinkable alcohol per year for our own personal consumption, we must pay out to the government for the ability to do so.

In my view this whole problem goes back to the abuse of the Commerce Clause of our beloved Constitution.   The Commerce clause has become the springboard for a remarkable volume of abuse and harassment of the people and businesses of this country.  We can thank the Supreme Court of the United States for this overeach.  There was a long period in the Court's history when the Court, seeking to curb the regulatory powers of the Federal Government by various means, held that certain things were not subject to the commerce clause because they were either not interstate commerce or bore no sufficient relationship to interstate commerce. That has all changed, and the change starts with one Court decsion: Gibbons v. Ogden.  The opinion given on March 2, 1824 set the stage for the growth of abuse and intrusiveness of the Federal Government.

In my view there is no reason for the Federal Government to be involved in the home production of, wine, spirits, ....anything.  The respective States may have some say in the matter as unless there is evidence presented that a home distiller is selling alcohol over state lines. What about the States...what do they require for permission to distill at home?  Well, in the lovely Socialist Republic of Ilinois, the State government is just as intrusive and oppressive as are the Feds.  Yet, changing a state law is is certainly much easier than trying to get something changed with the monlolitic Federal Government.

So, for now we can't distill at home, but there are legislative efforts ongoing at the Federal level that may one day lead to a change for home distillers.  Curently working its way through  Congress is the bill H.R. 777.   This Bill targets taxes paid by small producers of spirits like rum and whiskey to ease the tax burden they have to deal with.  It was even sponsored by a New York democrat, Maurice Hinchey.  Co-sponsors of the bill are: Rep. Michael Michaud [D, ME-2], Rep. Chellie Pingree [D, ME-1], and Rep. Lee Terry [R, NE-2].   The primary reason all of the Democrats are actually advocating such tax relief for small distilleries is the fact that in their congressional districts a there happens to be some successful start up small distillers who want to grow and expand and hire more workers...but find that difficult with the current tax burdens.   Thank you to Ralph Erenzo of Tuthilltown, Melkon Khosrovian of Greenbar Collective, and a small group of American craft distillers that have been working very hard to push this bill through with the help of Congressman Hinchey.    It is through gradual efforts of this nature that will eventually make home distillation a lawful possibility someday.  I believe that if we can win the liberty to distill at home, it will drive the craft distillation commercial growth every bit as much as home brewing has been driving the success and creativity of the craft brewing commercial enterprises.

So find out who your state and federal legislative representatives are.  Respectfully inform them of your views on home distillation. Show them the hypocrisy of the current laws and how small home brewers have driven the massive changes in the commercial beer landscape. Explain that home distillation could also do the same an explosion of small craft distilleries that can become  taxable business enterprises.  Freedom is a powerful thing, it is the fuel that drives a strong economy, high employment numbers....and sound economic health.