1. Since the adoption of the Twenty-first Amendment, the Equal
Protection Clause is inapplicable to imported intoxicating liquor.
P. 304 U. S.
2. A Minnesota statute provides that no licensed manufacturer or
wholesaler shall import any brand of intoxicating liquors
containing more than 25% of alcohol by volume, ready for sale
without further processing, unless such brand is registered in the
Patent Office of the United States. Held,
valid under the
Twenty-first Amendment as applied to a foreign corporation,
licensed in Minnesota and engaged there in wholesaling liquor
imported, ready for sale, from another State, under brands not
registered, notwithstanding the discrimination arising in favor of
liquor processed within the State and in favor of imported brands
that are registered. P. 304 U. S.
3. Independently of the Twenty-first Amendment, a State has
power to terminate licenses to sell intoxicating liquors. P.
304 U. S.
20 F. Supp. 1019 reversed.
Appeal from a decree of a district court of three judges
enjoining the enforcement of a liquor regulation. See
also 11 F. Supp.
Page 304 U. S. 402
MR. JUSTICE BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.
Section 2 of the Twenty-First Amendment to the Federal
"The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or
possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of
intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby
The adoption of the Amendment was proclaimed December 5, 1933.
In February, 1934, Joseph Triner Corporation, an Illinois
corporation engaged there in the manufacture of intoxicating
liquors, complied with the Minnesota foreign corporations law,
secured from the Liquor Control Commissioner a license to sell such
liquors within Minnesota at wholesale, and thereafter carried on in
that State the business of selling to retailers liquors
manufactured by it in Illinois. The Legislature of Minnesota
enacted chapter 390, approved April 29, 1935, which provides:
"No licensed manufacturer or wholesaler shall import any brand
or brands of intoxicating liquors containing more than 25 percent
of alcohol by volume ready for sale without further processing
unless such brand or brands shall be duly registered in the patent
office of the United States."
The business of Joseph Triner Corporation in Minnesota included
selling many brands of liquors containing more than 25 percent. of
alcohol which had not been registered in the Patent Office, and, at
the time of the enactment of the statute, it had there a stock of
such liquors. To enjoin the Liquor Control Commissioner of
Minnesota from interfering with the business, it brought this suit
in the federal court for that State, alleged that the statute of
1935 violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment of the Federal Constitution,
Page 304 U. S. 403
alleged danger of irreparable injury, and sought both a
preliminary and a permanent injunction. The several state officials
charged with the duty of enforcing the statute were joined as
The case was heard by three judges under § 266 of the Judicial
Code. The court, holding that it had both federal and equity
jurisdiction, granted a preliminary injunction, 11 F. Supp.
, and later a permanent injunction, 20 F. Supp. 1019. The
state officials appealed to this Court. The sole contention of
Joseph Triner Corporation is that the statute violated the equal
protection clause. The state officials insist that the provision of
the statute is a reasonable regulation of the liquor traffic, and
also that, since the adoption of the Twenty-First Amendment, the
equal protection clause is not applicable to imported intoxicating
liquor. As we are of opinion that the latter contention is sound,
we shall not discuss whether the statutory provision is a
reasonable regulation of the liquor traffic.
The statute clearly discriminates in favor of
liquor processed within the State as against liquor completely
processed elsewhere. For only that locally processed may be sold
regardless of whether the brand has been registered. That, under
the amendment, discrimination against imported liquor is
permissible although it is not an incident of reasonable regulation
of the liquor traffic was settled by State Board of
Equalization v. Young's Market Co., 299 U. S.
, 299 U. S. 62
There, it was contended that, by reason of the discrimination
involved, a statute imposing a $500 license fee for importing beer
violated both the commerce clause and the equal protection clause.
In sustaining its validity, we said:
"The words used [in the Amendment] are apt to confer upon the
state the power to forbid all importations which do not comply with
the conditions which it [the state] prescribes. . . . "
Page 304 U. S. 404
"The plaintiffs argue the limitation of the broad language of
the Twenty-First Amendment is sanctioned by its history and by the
decisions of this Court on the Wilson Act, the Webb-Kenyon Act, and
the Reed Amendment. As we think the language of the amendment is
clear, we do not discuss these matters. . . ."
"The claim that the statutory provisions and the regulations are
void under the equal protection clause may be briefly disposed of.
A classification recognized by the Twenty-First Amendment cannot be
deemed forbidden by the Fourteenth."
Joseph Triner Corporation insists that the
statute is unconstitutional because it permits unreasonable
discrimination between imported brands. That is, the registered
brands of other foreign manufacturers may be imported, while its
unregistered brands may not be, although "identical in kind,
ingredient and quality." We are asked to limit the power conferred
by the amendment so that only those importations may be forbidden
which, in the opinion of the Court, violate a reasonable regulation
of the liquor traffic. To do so would, as stated in the Young's
case, p. 299 U. S. 62
"involve not a construction of the amendment, but a rewriting of
The fact that Joseph Triner Corporation had,
when the statute was passed, a valid license and a stock of liquors
in Minnesota imported under it is immaterial. Independently of the
Twenty-First Amendment, the State had power to terminate the
license. Mugler v. Kansas, 123 U.
; Premier-Pabst Sales Co. v. Grosscup,
298 U. S. 226
298 U. S.
MR. JUSTICE REED concurs in the result.
MR. JUSTICE CARDOZO took no part in the consideration or
decision of this case.