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‘Moonshine Bill’ Awaits State Senate Approval

On Monday, January 24, the West Virginia House of Delegates on a vote of 74-22 sent House Bill 2972 to the State Senate. If the bill (I call it the Moonshine Bill), is approved by the senate and signed by Gov. Justice, all households with two sober adults of 21 years of age or older will be permitted to manufacture 100 gallons of white lightning per calendar year for home consumption.

Actually, the would-be-law does not state that the participating manufacturers must be sober. I added that because I do not believe that anyone consuming 50 gallons of ’shine in the space of 365 days would know how many gallons that they had produced or consumed. Fifty gallons is 400 pints. That is more than a pint a day without allowing Sunday as a day to rest. Might be wrong, but I don’t think someone doing that much consumin’ would know one day of the week from another.

The action of our elected and selected delegates did not surprise me. I first caught wind of the Moonshine Bill on Thursday, January 20, Day 9 of the 60-day regular legislative session. The bill was slated for a second reading on Friday and third reading (passage) on Monday. I knew that the bill was on the fast track because its sponsors included Eric Householder (R – Berkeley) and Mike Pushkin (D – Kanawha). Householder is the House Finance Committee Chairman and Pushkin is vice chairman of the West Virginia State Democratic Executive Committee. With support like that I knew the Moonshine Bill was a done deal before Monday’s vote.

Tom Fast (R – Fayette) was the only delegate to speak out against the bill. He thought 50 gallons was too much and offered an amendment limiting annual production to just 15 gallons per 21 year old adult. His amendment was rejected. Fast also sought to add language to the bill such that the homemade liquor could not be offered, transferred or gifted to non-family or non-household members. His suggested addition fell on deaf ears.

I had to wait until Monday’s vote to learn whether or not Putnam’s delegates thought that an allowance of 100 gallons of white lightning manufacture per household was a good idea or not. Here’s their votes: 13th District — Pinson (R) – Nay, Crouse (R) – Yea; 14th District — Wamsley (R) – Yea; 15th District — Foster (R) – Yea; 22nd District — Maynard (R) – Yea, Jeffries (R) – Yea; 38th District — Graves (R) -Nay.

To be fair, voting “yea” or “nay” should not be interpreted as favoring or not favoring a specific amount of homemade liquor production. The intent of the legislation is to eliminate the section of state code which blocks the production of homemade liquor. State law already allows for home production of beer or wine. The Moonshine Bill adds moonshine to that which any household is allowed to produce.

Historically, restriction upon home-produced liquor has been unpopular. In 1794, the Whiskey Rebellion broke out when the federal government attempted to place a tax of 9 cents per gallon on small producers.

Home-produced spirits in West Virginia is almost as old as the hills. Popularity was highest during the era of Prohibition (1920-33). During the ’20s, all liquor was homemade and without tax. The economy roared (the Roaring ’20s).

Only time will tell if passage of the Moonshine Bill will reduce West Virginians’ tax load enough to make the economy roar again.

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