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U.S. Supreme Court

Clark Distilling Co. v. Western Maryland Ry. Co., 242 U.S. 311 (1917)

Clark Distilling Company v. Western

Maryland Railway Company

Nos. 75, 76

Argued May 10, 11, 1915

Restored to docket for reargument November 1, 1915

Reargued November 8, 9, 1916

Decided January 8, 1917

242 U.S. 311


The West Virginia prohibition law of February, 1913, Code 1913, c. 32A, as amended by Acts of 1915, p. 33, id., p. 660, includes in its prohibitions the bringing into the state by carriers of intoxicating liquors intended for personal use and the receipt and possession of such liquors, when so introduced, for personal use.

Since the right asserted by the plaintiff is a permanent right to ship such liquors into the state, the decision concerns the state law as now amended, though the amendment occurred after the decision of the court below and after the first argument in this Court.

Without considering whether governmental power respecting intoxicating liquors extends to the prohibition of personal use, the right to restrict the means of procuring them for that purpose exists as an incident to the indubitable power to forbid manufacture and sale. Therefore these prohibitions of the West Virginia law are not offensive to the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The prohibitions, however, unless sanctioned by a valid law of Congress, would be repugnant to the Constitution as a direct burden chanrobles.com-red

Page 242 U. S. 312

on interstate commerce and an interference with the power of Congress to regulate it. Leisy v. Hardin, 135 U. S. 100.

The Act of Congress of March 1, 1913, 37 Stat. 699, known as the Webb-Kenyon Act, operated, if constitutional, to give effect to the above stated prohibitions of the West Virginia law in respect of liquors shipped into the state for personal use by withdrawing from such shipments the immunity of interstate commerce, and, to forbid the shipment or transportation into the state of liquors intended to be received or possessed there for personal use contrary to such state prohibitions. Adams Express Co. v. Kentucky, 238 U. S. 190, distinguished.

The Webb-Kenyon Act is a legitimate exertion of the power to regulate commerce.

That power, in the case of intoxicants, because of their character extends to the total prohibition of their transport in interstate commerce, and necessarily includes the lesser power, exercised in the Webb-Kenyon Act, of adapting the regulation to the various local requirements and conditions that may be expressed in the laws of the states.

Such a mode of exercise involves no delegation of the power to the states.

Neither is the act objectionable as productive of a lack of uniformity. This results:

(1) Because it applies uniformly to the conditions which call it into play; its provisions apply to all the states, and

(2) Because the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce is not subject to the restriction that regulations shall be uniform throughout the United States.

The right of Congress to regulate a subject of interstate commerce, its scope, and the mode in which it may be exerted depend upon the degree of the power of Congress over the subject regulated -- viz., in this case, intoxicating liquor, and not upon those considerations which cause some subjects of interstate commerce to be under state control in the absence of congressional regulation and others to be free from state control until Congress has acted. Leisy v. Hardin, supra, explained and applied.

The Webb-Kenyon Act is not repugnant to the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.

219 F.3d 3, id. 339, affirmed.

These were suits for injunctions compelling the defendants to accept intoxicating liquors for shipment into West Virginia. The appeals were taken from decrees of the district court dismissing the bills. The facts are stated in the opinion. chanrobles.com-red

Page 242 U. S. 315


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