Alcohol Monopoly States: Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC)

Why are some states government alcohol monopoly states? The reason lies in the past. Repeal of National Prohibition was in 1933. At that point, some states decided to continue their own prohibition within their borders. Other states decided to leave the choice up to local jurisdictions (counties and/or cities). This is local option. So even today there are hundreds of dry counties across the country.

Among those states that did not choose to maintain prohibition, some chose to become alcohol monopoly states. That is, to impose government monopolies over the sale of alcohol beverages. The other non-prohibition states chose to follow the traditional American practice of free enterprise regulated by laws.

Alcohol Monopoly States

There are currently 18 government alcohol monopoly states or “control states” in the U.S. The term “control state” is popular but misleading. That’s because all states control and regulate the sale of alcohol. Therefore every state is a control state. However, only 18 are gavernment alcohol monopoly states.

The 18 government monopoly states are

  • Alcohol monopoly states in blue

    Alabama

  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Maryland (Montgomery County)
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

Over one-fourth of the U.S. Population lives in monopoly jurisdictions. 2 Customer choice is limited in monopoly stores, which have no competition. Therefore, they have no incentive to be customer-friendly. However, monopoly officials tend to argue they can restrict drinking, which they believe to be desirable.

So Why Monopoly?

Virginia was the first state to create a monopoly system after Repeal. The Virginia Historical Society explains:

“On 23 February 1934 the speaker of the house signed a bill to create the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

“Temperance crusaders were active in Virginia long before the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919. First the General Assembly enacted local-option laws. They allowed voters to decide if their communities would be ‘wet’ or ‘dry.’ The Anti-Saloon League, under the guidance of the Reverend James Cannon, Jr., campaigned long and hard against the evils of drink. Then, a statewide prohibition law, known as the Mapp Act, closed all the saloons in Virginia in 1916. However, it allowed every household to import from outside the state one quart of liquor, three gallons of beer, or one gallon of wine per month. National prohibition followed, and Virginians lost their ‘one quart law.’

“Compulsory abstinence proved unpopular and impossible to enforce. In 1933 Virginians voted to ratify the Twenty-first Amendment repealing prohibition and to devise a plan for liquor control. Governor John Garland Pollard, a loyal prohibitionist, warned ‘Now that prohibition is doomed, the supreme question of the hour is this. What new weapon shall we adopt to combat this age-old evil?’

That new ‘weapon’ turned out to be the first state agency of its kind in the nation, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.” 3

The control boards of the monopoly states established the National Alcoholic Beverage Control Association (NABCA) in 1937. It supports monopolies controlling the wholesale and/or retail sale of any form of alcohol. That is, beer, wine, or distilled spirits.

References: Alcohol Monopoly States

  1. Alcoholic Beverage Control States. Wine Law section, Wine Institute website.
  2. NABCA website
  3. Virginia Historical Society. On This Day: Legislative Moments in Virginia History. ViA Dept ABC website.