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    By: Richard M. Blau, Chair of the firm's Alcohol Beverage Department


    Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association v. Thomas required the Court to interpret and construe its original holding in Granholm v Heald relative to Tennessee’s durational residency requirements for alcohol licensure, and in doing so balance the seemingly disparate elements of the Constitution embodied by the dormant Commerce Clause doctrine and the 21st Amendment.

    On June 26, 2019, the Court rendered its decision.  In a 7 to 2 split, the majority of justices ruled in favor of the petitioners and the dormant Commerce Clause doctrine, finding that Tennessee’s two-year residency requirements for new alcohol beverage licensees constituted protectionist legislation designed to favor in-state retailers to the detriment of out-of-state competitors.  That discrimination contravenes the dormant Commerce Clause doctrine, according to the Court. 

    Perhaps most importantly, the majority of justices further concluded that while the Twenty-first Amendment was relevant to the case, its strength lies solely in Section 2’s grant of core powers, and that grant cannot include laws with a protectionist purpose.  In its examination of Section 2’s core powers, the majority rejected that argument that the Commerce Clause rules applicable to out-of-state alcohol products and producers do not apply to state laws regulating in-state alcohol distribution. 

    Continue reading here

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