You could make your own alcohol in Ohio if new bill passes

City Hall Moonshine
Posted at 7:08 PM, Jan 13, 2023

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A new bill introduced to the Ohio Senate would allow Ohioans to make and consume moonshine.

Moonshine, a homemade distilled spirit typically made illegally, has been banned since before the prohibition.

Eric Trueheart works with alcohol every day as the co-founder of Black Yeti Beverage. It's time for Ohio to update its liquor laws, he said.

"The no moonshine laws are leftover from prohibition, and they weren't put in place for people's safety so much or to stop individuals," Trueheart said. "They were put in place to stop organized crime like Al Capone."

Senate Bill 13would allow any Ohioan 21 and older to make, drink and serve moonshine, as long as they don't charge for it. Introduced by Sen. Frank Hoagland (R-Mingo Junction), the legislation permits one person to make up to 100 gallons a year, but two or more people in one household could make 200 gallons.

The distiller could only provide the alcohol to their family, neighbors, co-workers and friends on private property located in this state, according to the bill. The legislation also allows for the producer to ship the moonshine to the same group of individuals.

"It's a fun hobby and it's something you can share with your friends, which makes it even better," Trueheart said.

Making that much flammable liquid at home, and without proper training could cause some people to set their homes on fire, Case Western Reserve University professor Michael Benza said.

"You may want to get insurance," Benza said. "[But] there may be a hard time getting insurance because it's legal under Ohio law, illegal under federal law."

Even if Ohio was to pass this bill, it would still be against federal law to make liquor, he said.

"It creates tensions between the two levels of the government," he added. "I don't know if the feds would ignore that or if the feds would come after somebody."

It is also possible the federal government could treat it like marijuana, the professor said.

"The federal government will often step back from prosecuting in those states where it's legal to do that, at least within the parameters of the state law," he said.

Ohio wouldn't be the first state to legalize moonshine production. People living in Alaska, Arizona, Massachusetts and Missouri are all allowed to make moonshine for personal consumption.

Although in Arizona, distillers need a permit. Consumers can only drink on their property in Massachusetts.

North Dakota also allows it — in a way. A distiller can make personal moonshine up to the federally allowed number of gallons, which is zero, so people can produce zero gallons of moonshine in that state. It is likely that this is trigger law, meaning if federal law changes, then state law will immediately follow suit.

Benza isn't sure why the bill was introduced this early into the General Assembly, considering it would impact a very niche group of people. He theorized it may be a way to also start chipping away at some of state licensing criteria.

This is not the first time Rep. Hoagland has proposed a bill to remove or reduce licensure. In the 134th G.A. and reintroduced this week, the lawmaker proposed a bill to let veterans teach without a background in education. He also rewrote a bill that would reduce the amount of training to carry a firearm into a school.

"It's also very interesting from a political science point of view that it's coming from a Republican-dominated General Assembly, which has historically been a very conservative social policy," Benza said.

The bill contains no other regulations, restrictions or government oversight over the home distillation process — but Trueheart has advice.

"I wouldn't sit down and drink 200 gallons on your own in one sitting," he chuckled. "That would be bad."

News 5 reached out to both the bill sponsor and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau but hasn't heard back.

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.