GM 18-039

Legislation to Allow Distilleries on Tribal Lands Headed to the President

On November 29, 2018, the Senate, by Unanimous Consent, approved HR 5317, a bill to repeal the federal ban on the establishment and operation of alcohol distilleries in Indian Country, sending it to the President for his expected signature. The original ban on such distilleries was enacted in 1834 as one provision in a set of laws commonly known as the “Indian liquor laws” that made it a federal crime to sell, give away, or otherwise introduce alcoholic beverages into Indian Country. Congress substantively amended the Indian liquor laws in 1953 by rendering the prohibitions and penalties inapplicable if a tribe has enacted a tribal law that is “in conformity” with state law and has been certified by the Secretary of the Interior. The House Committee report on HR 5317 states that, although the prohibition on distilleries “may have served a valid public policy goal in the mid-19th century, it is not compatible with the modern policy of promoting tribal self-determination and economic diversification.”

HR 5317 is sponsored by Rep. Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and had passed the House by voice vote under suspension of the rules on September 12, 2018. The Senate companion bill, S 3060, is sponsored by Senators Cantwell (D-WA) and Murray (D-WA). A press release from Rep. Herrera Beutler is attached and contains statements of support from the legislation’s sponsors as well as links to articles which provide further context on the original 1834 ban.

In addition to repealing the 1834 prohibition on the establishment and operation of alcohol distilleries in Indian Country, HR 5317 also contains a savings clause which clarifies that the repeal does not: (1) affect state or federal taxation; or (2) affect a state’s authority to regulate the importation and sale of alcoholic beverages within its own borders.

Please let us know if we may provide additional information about HR 5317.