Mixed Spirits Package Expected to Create Jobs, Support Michigan Small Businesses

LANSING — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this week signed a series of bills designed to make it easier for distillers and retailers to distribute and sell mixed spirit drinks, offering consumers more choices and growing the economy.

“This is a great example of bipartisan legislation that will create jobs and help our small businesses grow, and shows what we can do when we work together,” Whitmer said. “Distillers are a growing industry in Michigan, and these bills make it easier for distillers to distribute their products. These bills will make canned mixed spirits more affordable and accessible, creating jobs and helping Michigan small businesses.”

Jon O’Connor, president of the Michigan Craft Distillers Association, was pleased with the “bipartisan efforts in both the House and Senate.”

“We thank the Governor and the bi-partisan efforts in both the House and Senate for recognizing the importance of the craft distilling industry in Michigan as well as the need to make these changes which create new opportunities to get products to market,” said O’Connor, co-founder of Long Road Distillers. “We believe this is the beginning of continued and expanded support for future efforts related to enhancing opportunities for Michigan Small Distillers.”

Sen. Jeremy Moss, who sponsored one of the four bills in the package, noted the state has “innovative distillers” who are “making products that are increasing in popularity.”

“The law needed to catch up to allow this growing industry to succeed,” Moss said. “I was proud to work on this bipartisan legislation that removes burdensome barriers to enter into the market while still safely regulating these products for consumers.” 

Canned cocktails represent a growing part of the spirits industry, and SB 141-144 will allow for an expanded array of canned cocktails to be sold in Michigan. Previously, canned cocktails were capped at 10% alcohol-by-volume. These bills will allow for private wholesalers-often distilleries based in Michigan-to distribute canned cocktails up to 13.5% alcohol-by-volume. Taken together, their sponsors pointed out, the bills will cut red tape, support spirit It umanufacturers, and create good-paying jobs in Michigan.   

The bills:
SB 141, sponsored by Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, allows as Qualified Small Distillers to self-distribute up to 3,000 gallons per year of product direct to retailers of any product not listed in the ADA Price Book. It also allows qualified retailers to ship directly to consumers. A copy can be found here.

SB 142, sponsored by Sen. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, allows a mixed spirit manufacturer the ability to self-distribute up to up to 31,000 gallons of mixed spirit drinks directly to retailers. A copy can be found here.

SB 143 was sponsored by Moss, a Democrat from Southfield.  It updates code related to branded logo merchandise. A copy can be found here.

SB 144, sponsored by Sen. Curt VanderWall, R-Ludington, expands definition of Mixed Spirit Drink to allow ABV% to increase from 10 to 13.5% ABV as long as it is packaged in a metal container (can) of less than 24oz. It also reduces the tax on mixed spirits from $0.48 per liter to $0.30 per liter. It also expands the retailers who can sell Mixed Spirits to allow all retail license types to sell them, not just SDD as is the current law. A copy of SB 144 can be found here.     

Beyond this package of bills, on May 13 Representative Patrick Outman introduced HB 4842. He was able to secure 28 co-sponsors, a bi-partisan effort from legislators throughout Michigan. This bill would lower the markup charged by the state of Michigan to Small Distillers who utilize Michigan grown agriculture as the base for their distilled spirits products.

“The markup charged by the state of Michigan for distilled spirits products unfairly and negatively impacts the ability of Michigan Small Distillers to get products to market,” O’Connor said. “This bill has seen tremendous bi-partisan support in sessions past. We believe that given the recognition of the need to support craft distilling by legislators and the Governor, this bill will be enthusiastically supported as it is taken up in Lansing.”