In addition to opening the door to ending Saturday mail delivery in two years, the latest proposal to save the post office includes a provision that would let the U.S. Postal Service begin shipping alcohol across the country.
The ban on shipping beer and wine via the U.S. mail dates back to 1909, 10 years before Prohibition.
The law grew from statutes that prohibited the Postal Service from shipping "poisons, explosives, harmful items, and 'all spirituous, vinous, malted, fermented, or other intoxicating liquors of any kind,'" Josh Sanburn wrote at Time, citing Section 217 of 18 U.S.C. 1716(f) of the Act of March 4, 1909, ch. 321, 35 Stat. 1131.
Private carriers have been shipping beer and wine for years, but the Postal Service hasn't been able to get in on that action thanks to the federal law. Note: Individuals are not legally allowed to ship alcohol to one another via either UPS or FedEx (so no sending one of your favorite wines to Mom for Mother's Day). Those who are licensed to ship wine can apply to either carrier to send it to individuals or businesses, but beer can be sent only between licensed companies, not to individuals -- and shipment of all alcohol is subject to state laws, which vary widely
Getting into the alcohol shipping business could prove lucrative for the post office, once it's able to establish procedures to ensure that alcohol is not shipped to anyone younger than 21 (requiring a signature for delivery, for example) or to any of the states that prohibit alcohol shipments from out-of-state retailers.
"With the onslaught of e-commerce, as long as (beer and wine) ship legally in terms of states that we're allowed to ship, I think you're going to see it take off," Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe told Time.
According to Time:
Donahoe says he doesn't believe that getting a federal agency like the post office involved in shipping alcohol across state lines is in any way disreputable. In fact, he already has some shipping ideas if it passes: 2-, 4- and 6-bottle wine boxes for one flat rate that would ship anywhere in the country.
The bill including the beer and wine provision passed the Senate last week.