By Tom McQuighan.
Some Maryland residents have found
that buying a favorite wine requires a trip to DC, VA, or WV and a
surreptitious return. Others are shocked when, after spending a
glorious day touring California wineries, they learn what they taste
cannot be shipped home. And still others have been chagrined to learn
that they cannot get a gift basket delivered if it contains a bottle of
wine. Maryland is one of only four states that make direct shipping of
wine a felony.
That could change if the Direct Wine Shipper SB 566
, sponsored by Sen. Jamie Raskin is passed by the MD assembly. If
history is a guide, it will fail despite the bi-partisan group of 107
MD legislators that co-sponsor it – including 85% of the MoCo
delegation. Direct Wine Shipper HB716
, House sponsor, Del. Carolyn Krysiak, Baltimore City, says that the
very first constituent to visit her 20 years ago in the House was one
who wanted these laws changed. If it goes her way, history will be made.
The Post opined in it is OP-ED “Maryland's liquor lobby and the politics of obstruction”
that this “absurdity is a creation of Sen. Miller, Del. Busch and their
legislative lieutenants in Annapolis influenced by the toxic of the
liquor lobby's campaign cash.” But what is different this year is a
smart, grassroots campaign led by Adam Borden and Marylanders for
Better Beer and Wine Laws (MBBWL).
Borden, of Baltimore City, has met with legislators, citizens, farm
bureaus and government agencies across the state to encourage passage.
Borden has even inspired Robert Parker, the world-acclaimed wine critic and Maryland resident, to write Governor O’Malley a personal plea for changes to the law.
Montgomery County Senator has signed on as a sponsor. The Montgomery
County position on this measure under current leadership is to not
oppose it. Even the Department of Liquor Control notes that in similar
“control” 3-tier states such as New Hampshire the law work well: as it
does not increase underage abuse, or impact retail store sales. Peter
Franchot, State Treasurer, in a departure from his predecessor William
Donald Schaefer, points to the tax benefits and potential to increase
in-state wineries jobs as reasons to support it. Only 5 MOCO Delegates
have not: Herman Taylor, D14; William Bronrott, D16; Kumar Barve D17;
Sheila Hixson D20; and Charles Barkley D39.
Borden has used
social media, Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Meet up and YouTube as part of
a campaign that counts on hundreds of volunteers to make this a hot
issue throughout the state. All of this points to why an army of
thousands have signed petitions, focused letters to their elected and
expect a different outcome. You’ll see them again at the Rockville Wine
Festival this summer looking for answers if this gets hung up again due
to committee wrangling.
The steam throughout the State against such potential obstructionists was captured by The Baltimore Sun in “Thwarting Public Opinion Over Wine Law Would be Serious Mistake.”
The Sun says that “elected officials who act contrary to the views of
voters are likely to find the electorate unforgiving this November. Woe
to any politician who thinks the voters won't notice such glaring
arrogance.” Borden says it differently, “2010 will be the MD Vintage
for Direct Wine Shipping. Every year a few holdout states jump on
board, so an election year is perfect time to do so in MD. It costs the
state nothing, raises revenue and creates jobs, what is not to like
On the recent You Tube press announcement,
Sen. Raskin, despite his lack of personal interest in a drink that
gives him headaches, says he sponsors this bill because the issue
commands extraordinary popularity across the state and that he is
responding to the yearly deluge of calls to his office. Sen. Pugh,
Baltimore County, the other lead Senator, and another non-drinker, says
Marylanders should have same rights as citizens in other states.
the rules, which date back to Prohibition and were intended to rein in
organized crime, now serve as catalyst for turning even the most casual
wine enthusiasts into felony smugglers. Some of these say that
Prohibition did not end the tradition of alcohol distributors paying
officials for political favors.
Time will tell if mbbwl.org efforts will make a difference this year. The hearing in the House is scheduled for Friday, March 5.
"There are two ways, and only two ways, in which an ordinary private
citizen ... can violate the United States Constitution. One is to
enslave someone, a suitably hellish act. The other is to bring a bottle
of beer, wine, or bourbon into a State in violation of its beverage
control laws—an act that might have been thought juvenile, and perhaps
even lawless, but unconstitutional?" Laurence Tribe, Professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School.
Tom McQuighan is the Montgomery County Coordinator of Marylanders for Better Beer and Wine Laws.