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Mississippi Moonshine Costs the State Millions Each Year

Mississippi Moonshine Costs the State Millions Each Year
© Photo: Brian Sawyer
State Agents closed yet another illegal still last week - but the 2 suspected of operating the illicit distillery face only small fines for what officials call a dangerous practice.

Kathy Waterbury of the Mississippi State Tax Commission, says that illegal moonshiners cost the state millions of dollars in lost tax revenues per year. Already this year, 5 people face charges for the operation of illicit distilleries, facing slap on the wrist fines and little or no jail time for what can be a harmful offence.

In addition to the substantial losses in tax revenue, moonshine, which sells for about 15 dollars a gallon on the black market, can be dangerous.

Describing concerns about moonshine, Waterbury says, "The biggest thing is it is a public health issue. The alcohol is made in very unsanitary conditions. We have seen fermented mash where there were rats swimming around in it. We've seen people store the moonshine in Clorox bleach and antifreeze bottles, and we don't know what sanitation process they used before they poured the moonshine in there."

Medical experts say that in addition to unsanitary production conditions, moonshiners sometimes cobble together stills with lead solder that can leach into the liquor, and unscrupulous operators will sometimes increase the yield through the addition of methanol – a substance that can lead to blindness if consumed.

On Friday, Mississippi Alcoholic Beverage Control officers closed yet another still, destroying about 200 gallons of liquor mash and 34 gallons of "shine". Maurice Banks, 35, of Coila and Willie Banks, 64, of Cruger, are suspected in conjunction with the illegal distillery.

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