Our Say: Maryland's ban on shipping wine overdue for repeal

Hometown Annapolis posted the article below about it being "time for the General Assembly to end the farce" with regard to direct wine shipping in Maryland:

Our Say: Maryland's ban on shipping wine overdue for repeal

Published 02/05/10

If you told most Marylanders that it is a felony to ship wine directly to consumers in the state, they might be startled or amused. But few would truly be indignant.

Most state residents who drink wine are probably satisfied with the 10,000 or so kinds on offer at the state's liquor stores, and not interested in the 80,000 or so American wines unavailable here. Comparatively speaking, not that many spend vacation time visiting wineries, keep up to date on the latest vintages, or want to join an online wine-of-the-month club.

And most state residents also have no direct ties to the 40 or so Maryland wineries, which are being hurt because the ban on direct shipping also applies to them.

That's why this ridiculous ban survives year after year, in spite of increasing legislative interest in ending it. We're hoping matters are different this year, but there are no guarantees.

Some 33 states (including Virginia), as well as Washington, D.C., allow direct shipping. These jurisdictions represent some 80 percent of the country's population. In them liquor wholesalers and retailers are doing just fine, revenue from taxes on alcoholic beverages pours in, and the problem of underage consumption of booze, if no better, is also no worse.

Numerically, the small cadre of liquor wholesalers and retailers who benefit from Maryland's ban may be even smaller than the number of state residents who find it inconvenient or damaging. But they are better organized, have enough money to make hefty campaign contributions and hire good lobbyists, and have certain key legislators in their pocket. So the farce goes on.

One of its silliest aspects is the argument that the state's creaky "three-tier" system of distribution (wholesaler-to-retailer-to-customer) keeps booze out of the hands of the underaged. Of course. What 17-year-old would try to get beer right now by conning a local store employee with a fake ID, or having some irresponsible older buddy make the purchase? Why should he do that when he can order a premium California merlot online, and sit around for a week or so waiting for it to be delivered to his parents' home?

The liquor lobby also argues that direct delivery of a sort is allowed under the current Direct Wine Seller's permit - a system so awkward, restrictive and seldom used that it's estimated that only about $150 in taxes and permit fees have been collected through it in seven years.

Much more would be collected if legislators followed through on proposals that would allow any winery or retailer to ship up to 24 cases a year to any adult Marylander, impose the state's sales tax on the purchase, and require an adult's signature to complete the delivery.

Perhaps this whole issue is only small potatoes - or, if you like, small grapes. But it's a classic example of why so many are cynical about the state legislature. It's time for the General Assembly to end the farce.

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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