Maryland Wine Shipping Manifesto (HB-716, SB-566)

A blog posting on Vinotrip about the fact that "the liquor distributors (and some retailers) like things the way they are, so they oppose changes to the system," therefore opposing the direct wine shipping bill:

Maryland Wine Shipping Manifesto (HB-716, SB-566)

What’s the problem?

The issue at hand is that wine consumers in Maryland cannot order a bottle of wine from an out of state retailer and have it shipped to their house. This is because Maryland law dictates that alcohol retailing in Maryland flows through the Three Tier System: producer-distributor-retailer-(you)

For more on the three tier system, read Tom Wark’s blog Fermentation. He talks about it a lot and he’ll describe it in better detail that I can.

The problem is that the liquor distributors (and some retailers) like things the way they are, so they oppose changes to the system.

Why are they against it?

The public reason

The final argument that they’re clinging to is that underage kids will have access to a world of wine which will be delivered to their door. Maryland will be helpless to enforce the age limit for purchasing alcohol. Society will descend into darkness and oblivion.

This is, of course, total bunk. No college kid is going to pay $7.99 plus $5.99 shipping for a bottle of Yellowtail to be delivered to his dorm room next week. It just isn’t going to happen. See previous post for more.

Second, UPS and FedEx will not just leave a bottle of wine lying around if you aren’t home to receive it. They require an adult to sign for the package if the package contains wine. I know through personal experience that both UPS and FedEx are extraordinarily vigilant about this.

The private reason

The distributors like things the way they are because it is profitable. Can’t blame them. If I were one of the few people entitled to buy alcohol at a discount then resell it to consumers at a significant markup, then I’d probably pull the “it ain’t broke don’t fix it card” too.

It is important to note this: proponents of direct wine shipping to Maryland are not trying to dismantle the three tier system and run distributors out of business. If direct shipping to Maryland becomes legal, distributors will still thrive doing what they do. They provide a service and fill a need to the retailers and restaurants and this need will continue to exist. Millions of Marylanders are still going to buy from their local shop. Very little will change.

Well, do we not have more important things to worry about?

Look, I’ll agree that this is a trivial issue. Maryland has real problems to deal with. Push this through and let’s get on with it.

Do we really have a chance?

In previous years, no. The bill hasn’t even made it out of committee. Now that some committee members have come on board, chairwoman of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee is threatening to refuse to hear the issue at all. Essentially, she’s saying “well you guys won’t even get the chance to vote on it, because I don’t think it’s fit for a vote.” See previous coverage here and here and plenty of other places.

In short, unless the bill is voted on in committee, then there is absolutely no chance of it passing.

What can I do?

Write to your Maryland state Representative or Senator and let them know how you feel about the issue. Support Marylanders for Better Beer and Wine Laws for they are the ones on the front lines of this. Finally, if you really feel passionately about this, make note of who opposes the bill and vote accordingly come November.

Wineries with Permits

Wineries Able to Ship to MD

Here is a link to the Comptroller's website. Search for "DW-Direct Wine Shippers Permit" under permit type.

Search for wineries


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