Another legislative effort is being made to allow the Postal Service to ship alcohol to consumers.
The USPS Shipping Equity Act (H.R. 3287) was introduced by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) and would allow USPS to ship alcoholic beverages directly from licensed producers and retailers to consumers over the age of 21, in accordance with state and local shipping regulations. It would also give the Postal Service two years to develop regulations and implement the law, such as to ensure that appropriate identification checks are in place to verify ages when delivering to recipients.
A number of past legislative efforts to make this change have failed. Part of the push from the bill’s sponsors this time around is that e-commerce has increasingly been a booming business in the Internet era, especially with the pandemic driving consumer spending further online. The total value of e-commerce sales for alcoholic beverages is expected to hit $24 billion worldwide this year and the United States is expected to overtake China as the world’s largest online alcohol market by the end of the year. These trends could entice Congress to make the legislation a higher priority.
Proponents of the bill also argue that USPS would have an edge in this market because the organization ships to all households in the country, even rural ones, whereas some private carriers do not.
Speier said in a statement about the bill, “In 2019, California wineries shipped 275.6 million cases of wine, yet consumers and manufacturers are prohibited from using the U.S. Postal Service to ship or deliver these everyday products. In most states, private carriers such as FedEx and UPS are already delivering alcoholic beverages. It makes no sense to create a competitive disadvantage for the USPS by barring them from these kinds of shipments, especially given the Postal Service’s dire financial condition. The time is long overdue for Congress to lift this Prohibition-era ban for the benefit of beverage manufacturers, consumers, and our struggling postal service.”
The Postal Service has seen the most growth from its package and shipping division, especially in the last year with COVID creating a boom in online commerce. However, USPS continues to lose money by the billions, so while shipping alcohol might help create some new and needed revenue for that part of its business (an argument made by the proponents of the bill), this legislation alone is likely to turn around the Postal Service’s financial situation.