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West Virginia passes bill allowing home distillation of liquor up to 5 gallons


We've distilled some news for you about a piece of Appalachian heritage boiled up during West Virginia's latest legislative session. West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Randy Yohe reports on a bill that lawmakers approved allowing Mountain Staters to make their own moonshine at home.

RANDY YOHE, BYLINE: Picking up a pint of rum at a liquor store in the capital city of Charleston, W.V., Whitney Mitchell says she favors the idea of distilling her own booze.

WHITNEY MITCHELL: I think that's pretty cool, actually, because, I mean, technically, a lot of people make it illegally anyways, so it would make it better for the people.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Is there debate on the bill?

YOHE: First dubbed the moonshine bill, the legislature approved a proposal that would allow someone at least 21 years old to make up to five gallons of moonshine per year. For a couple, the bill allows 10 gallons. Republican Delegate Doug Smith sponsored the measure. He says home distilling of spirits would boost economic development and embrace an Appalachian history and heritage.

DOUG SMITH: It also is a craft. We could bring in people that do this across the state and have a contest. There's an opportunity there, bringing people in from other states to come there for the fair.

YOHE: Smith's bill was met with opposition by fellow Republicans, including Delegate Tom Fast. Fast says alcohol is West Virginia's most addictive drug, causing physical and mental impairment. The bill's language specifies that distilling is for personal and family use. Fast argues that it will create family dangers.


TOM FAST: This green light to produce this controlled substance in your home says nothing about how many children are going to be or are in the home. And does that make a difference? It doesn't make a difference whatsoever.

YOHE: The moonshine bill passed the House by one vote in late January. It then languished in a Senate committee for weeks, where it was expected to die. But in the final hours on the last day of the legislative session, it was resurrected. Lawmakers initially wanted to permit up to 50 gallons distilled per year. It was reduced to 10 gallons. Asked about the bill, Republican Governor Jim Justice had this to say.


JIM JUSTICE: I'm always proud, you know, of our heritage. I'm not proud of illegal heritage.

YOHE: Justice seldom vetoes bills passed by the Republican-led legislature. So the moonshine bill, now called the distilled spirits bill, is all but certain to become law. For NPR News, I'm Randy Yohe in Charleston, W.V. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Randy Yohe
[Copyright 2024 West Virginia Public Broadcasting]

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