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West Virginia House Bill 2972 and the Legality of Homemade Liquor

Home distilling might get legalized in West Virginia soon. The West Virginia House of Delegates has recently passed House Bill 2972, a bill that would make it legal for people in West Virginia to make liquor at home. The bill will make it legal for people 21 years and older to make 50 gallons of liquor per calendar year in a household where only one person is over the age of 21 years and 100 gallons of liquor per calendar year in a household where two or more people are over the age of 21 years. The homemade liquor can be made for personal or family use, but it will still be illegal to sell homemade liquor. House Bill 2972 is currently pending in the West Virginia Senate.

People who oppose the legalization of home distilling often argue that it should stay banned for health and safety reasons. Whiskey can get contaminated with methanol when it is not distilled properly. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, methanol is a toxic alcohol that is highly flammable and can cause numerous health problems, most notably blindness and death. Methanol is one of the main reasons why moonshine is associated with blindness, death, and explosions. Although methanol is used to make many valuable products (most notably fuel, antifreeze, and solvents) and even occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables that people consume regularly, it is not safe for people to drink methanol-contaminated whiskey.

People who support the legalization of home distilling argue that the government banned home distilling to punish people who are avoiding taxes. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Congress created the Office of Internal Revenue in 1862 in order to collect taxes and authorized the hiring of three detectives in 1863 in order to investigate people who were evading alcohol taxes. Many of the people who support home distilling consider moonshining to be a victimless crime, as the people who make the moonshine sell it to people who want it. Although there can be explosions when home distilling is not done properly, and the moonshine can get contaminated with methanol when it is not made properly, it can be difficult to say that these are good enough reasons to ban home distilling when explosions happen at businesses that make legal products and when there are many products that are recalled on a regular basis because they are unsafe to use. People get injured in factories and manufacturing plants where food products are made, and many types of food are regularly recalled because of contaminants that can cause health problems, but the government does not punish food companies like it punishes people who make moonshine.

Although House Bill 2972 will make home distilling legal at the state level, it is still illegal at the federal level. According to the Tax and Trade Bureau, people who violate home distilling laws can get as many as five years in prison, a fine that is as high as $10,000, or both punishments. It is slightly misleading to say that House Bill 2972 make home distilling completely legal in West Virginia, as there is still a ban on home distilling at the federal level, but the bill does help guarantee that home distilling will be legal in West Virginia when it is legalized at the federal level. Federal laws supersede state laws, and federal legalization will be necessary to make home distilling truly legal.

During the pandemic, many states liberalized alcohol laws. Alcohol delivery was illegal before the pandemic, but now it has been legalized in many states. Although this is not directly related to homemade liquor, it does show that many states are liberalizing alcohol laws and are interested in supporting the alcohol industry. West Virginia is one of those states. In 2021, Governor Jim Justice signed House Bill 2025 into law. According to the West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration, some of the concepts in House Bill 2025 include legal alcohol delivery; additional outdoor and street dining options for beer, wine, and liquor; limited direct shipping for brewers and distilleries; and a hard cider tax reduction.

Right now, it might not seem like homemade liquor will get legalized, but the latest trend in liberalizing alcohol laws shows that many people are interested in supporting laws that promote the alcohol industry and alcohol production. Some bans seem like they will never end, but the fact that many prohibition laws are ending shows that many bans have very little actual support. State governments liberalized alcohol laws to help industries hurt by the pandemic, and the liberalized laws continue to help the economy.

Frank Decapio
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Frank is a writer at the Commoner.  He has degrees from Duquesne University, Eastern Gateway Community College, and Indiana Wesleyan University.  He likes to listen to rock, jazz, metal, and Italo disco music.  He writes about many subjects, and he wants to make inventions

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