Maryland to Allow Direct Shipping of Wine to Homes
Recently introduced bills would amend Prohibition-era laws regarding home delivery of wine.
By Ben Gross
February 21, 2011
Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia currently allow adult consumers to have wine directly shipped to their homes – Maryland is not one of them.
Since the repeal of prohibition in December 1933, the State has overseen the sale of alcoholic products via a system where wine is first shipped to a wholesaler in the state, who sells to a distributor who then transports the products to the individual retailers. While this process may help keep alcohol out of the hands of minors, it does not allow adult consumers in Maryland to enjoy the same freedom of choice they would have if they lived in the 75% of the United States that does allow home shipping of wine.
On January 28, Senator Jamie Raskin (D - Montgomery) and Delegate Jolene Ivey (D – Prince George’s) submitted legislation—House Bill 234 and Senate Bill 248—to allow direct shipping of wine to Maryland residents. This legislation carries the most sponsors of any bill introduced this session, 83 House Delegates and 32 Senators. These bills are the most recent attempt to amend this law - there have been comparable bills introduced each of the last three years, and similar efforts date back to 1980).
How might passage of this bill affect local businesses? Suman Shrestha, owner of Fenwick Beer and Wine is concerned that a repeat of the Netflix-video store progression could occur in his business.
“Blockbuster and Hollywood Video stores were everywhere then Netflix came along,” Shrestha said. “Once people realized they could get DVDs at home, they did not want to go to the store anymore – and if people can get wine delivered to their house, why would they come here?”
The wide-ranging “Direct Wine Shipping Study” compiled by the Office of the Comptroller, may help these bills pass where previous others have failed.
“With the Comptroller’s direct shipping study conclusively debunking all of the myths around this issue, especially underage access, the bill is cleared for passage,” said Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Maryland Wineries Association.
If passed, the bills would bring Maryland in line with other states, allowing consumers to order a limited number of cases of wine per year directly from the winery or an in-state or out-of-state retailer. The provisions of the measure are similar to the laws in other states and include safeguards against minors’ receiving alcohol through the mail and licensing and reporting to ensure compliance with state tax laws.
Even if local beer and wine stores do not go the way of brick-and-mortar video stores, they may have to find additional ways to bring in revenue.
“I don’t want to change, but I may have to look at lottery or cigarettes if I want to stay in business,” said Fenwick Beer & Wine’s Shrestha.
House Bill 234 and Senate Bill 248 are scheduled for a March 4, 2011 hearing at 1pm.