Alcohol Watchdog Pushes Back on Merkley’s Booze-by-Mail Plan

The proposal is a top priority for the American Postal Workers Union.

Dr. Reginald Richardson, executive director of the Oregon Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission, fired off a letter last week urging U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to drop his sponsorship of legislation that would allow the U.S. Postal Service to ship alcohol to people’s homes.

Currently, only private shipping companies such as UPS and FedEx are allowed to ship beer, wine and spirits. For Oregon producers and consumers, that means less competition among shippers and less shipping capacity—and for the financially ailing Postal Service, less revenue.

The proposal, which would generate an estimated $180 million a year in revenue, is a top priority for the American Postal Workers Union.

In his letter, Richardson acknowledges the size and diversity of Oregon’s alcoholic beverage industry, but he wants Sen. Merkley to focus on the damage alcohol does. He notes that Oregon’s rate of substance abuse disorder ranks second in the nation, and he fears USPS shipping would make alcohol more available to children.

“Alcohol harms cost Oregon $4.8 billion annually,” Richardson writes. “The amount of additional revenue to USPS simply can never equate to the economic cost of increasing access to alcohol.”

Merkley acknowledged many Oregonians struggle with addiction and says it’s “imperative” to provide services for them. But he still plans to move forward with a bill he says will benefit Oregon businesses and provide greater transparency.

“USPS, as a public agency, is more accountable and subject to government oversight than private shippers that are currently allowed to deliver alcohol while the USPS cannot,” Merkley said.