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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Yes, says the state: D.C. is part of the U.S. and its residents can buy our booze

Washington, D.C., may not be a state under the letter of the law, but its driver’s license is a “valid driver’s identification issued by another state” when I.D. is needed for buying booze in New Hampshire.

That ruling was handed down Tuesday, following news reports about a D.C. resident who couldn’t buy liquor at the Concord Food Co-op because state law doesn’t list the District of Columbia as a place whose driver’s license is considered valid identification. ...

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Washington, D.C., may not be a state under the letter of the law, but its driver’s license is a “valid driver’s identification issued by another state” when I.D. is needed for buying booze in New Hampshire.

That ruling was handed down Tuesday, following news reports about a D.C. resident who couldn’t buy liquor at the Concord Food Co-op because state law doesn’t list the District of Columbia as a place whose driver’s license is considered valid identification.

That rejection was a mistake, said Liquor Commission Director of Enforcement and Licensing James M. Wilson.

“It is understood that the District of Columbia is the capitol of the United States. The Division of Enforcement and Licensing does not believe the legislative intent of the statute was to omit and thereby exclude the documents as acceptable forms of identification,” he wrote in a ruling, distributed to several thousand liquor licensees in the state, which includes cocktail lounges, restaurants and convenience stores. “The Division of Enforcement and Licensing’s position is that Washington D.C. driver’s licenses and non-driver identification cards are acceptable for the purchase of alcoholic beverages.”

Washington, D.C.’s unique legal status as a non-state – the Constitution says Congress has jurisdiction over its 68 square miles – has other implications. Most notable is that, uniquely among American citizens, its residents have no voting member of Congress.

It has also led to questions about its driver’s license being legal indentification – such as a February incident in which a D.C. license was refused as identification by a TSA agent at an airport in Phoenix.

Although D.C. might be in limbo, people who head south into New Hampshire don’t have to worry about not being able to stock up on booze: The state law that address identification for buying liquor (RSA 179:8) says Canadian driver’s licenses are OK.

The only requirement is that any ID bear the “date of birth, name, address and picture of the licensee.”

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashua telegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).