Countians can legally possess beer, liquor; still must vote to legalize sale
A new law allowing the possession of alcohol—both liquor and beer and light wine– in every county in Mississippi was signed into law by Gov. Tate Reeves on Tuesday. It will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.
However, although residents may legally possess alcohol and beer, the new bill does not legalize the sale of either in every county. Residents would have had to vote to allow that.
Recently, petitions allowing for legal sale of beer and liquor in Walthall County have surfaced. Those circulating the petition note that many countians are confused by the recent legislation, thinking that alcohol sales will become automatic on Jan. 1.
Most counties in the state have already voted in favor of legal liquor. According to the Department of Revenue there are only 29 out of 82 counties that are dry for alcohol; and 31 counties that are dry for beer and light wine.
But even that count is misleading. Of the 29 dry for liquor counties in the state, only 10 of those counties are totally dry as 19 counties contain areas or municipalities where liquor sales are legal.
And although the wet-dry map for beer and light wine shows 31 dry counties for those beverages, there are only six totally dry counties, as the remainder contain municipalities and areas where sales of beer and light wine are legal.
So, in reality, only a small handful of counties exists in the state where one cannot legally purchase alcohol.
Walthall is one of those counties, although surrounded on all sides by counties (or municipalities) where sale is legal.
For years, proponents of legalization have pointed to the loss of sales tax as people travel to surrounding counties, or south to Louisiana to purchase beer and liquor.
Temperance laws were enacted in the Mississippi Legislature not long after achieving statehood.
History shows Mississippi as the first state to pass some form of prohibition in 1908, 10 years before the U.S. passed the 18th Amendment. Mississippi was the first state to ratify the 18th amendment.
When the 21st Amendment ended Prohibition in 1933, 36 states ratified it in 288 days.
Although beer sales were allowed by local option, liquor sales in the state did not become legal until 1966 when Mississippi became the last state to repeal its statewide Prohibition law.
City attorney Joe Stinson recalled on WTYL, during one of its election night broadcasts, “the liquor question” in the state, which was still a volatile issue in the 1950s, recalling a speech by Mississippi lawmaker and judge, Soggy Sweat, who was asked how he felt about whiskey.
“If when you say ‘whiskey’ you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children … then certainly I am against it,” Sweat starts out.
Then, he changes course.
“But if when you say ‘whiskey’ you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips … if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars. … then certainly I am for it,” he says.