Prohibition in Mississippi could be officially ended if a bill passed by the Legislature is signed into law by Gov. Tate Reeves.
House Bill 1087, which was sponsored by state Rep. Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia, would renounce prohibition of the possession of alcoholic beverages as the policy of the state. It would make it legal to possess beer and light wine throughout the state, even in dry counties.
Mississippi was the last state to end prohibition in 1966 after allowing the sale of beer in 1933, but the Legislature did so by allowing counties and municipalities to hold elections on whether to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages. Thirty one out of the state’s 82 counties are dry, which means they restrict sales of alcoholic beverages.
Simpson County was the most recent county to go “wet” after a 2019 election.
Alcohol freedom advocates have had some successes this session, but plenty of failures. While HB 1087 is likely to get signed into law, a bill that would allow a package store owner to own more than one permit died in committee, as did a bill that would’ve allowed the sale of wine at grocery stores. Both were sponsored by state Rep. Brent Powell, R-Flowood.
Wine sales in grocery stores are legal in 39 states, including Alabama, Tennessee and Louisiana.
A bill sponsored by state Rep. Charles Busby, R-Pascagoula, that would’ve allowed direct sales and shipments of wine to state residents also died in committee. Lamar also sponsored a bill that has passed out of both chambers that would allow individuals to buy wine from a winery and have it shipped to a package retailer in the state. It awaits the governor’s signature.
State Sen. Briggs Hopson, R-Vicksburg, sponsored a bill that would remove limits on direct, on-site sales by craft breweries and brewery pubs. Right now, breweries can’t sell any more than 10 percent of their product directly to consumers.
Mississippi’s distribution model on alcohol might change as well.
The state is a control state, which means the state controls the distribution of wine and spirits. Even wine and liquor made in Mississippi have to go to the state’s warehouse in Gluckstadt before they can be shipped out to package stores, restaurants and bars statewide.
Lamar, who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, also authored a bill that will create a separate state-chartered corporation to manage distribution of wine and liquor in the state. This public/private partnership would be like the one chartered to run the state’s lottery. This bill also awaits the governor’s signature.