Our Say: Franchot's Report Dispels Myths of Shipping Wine
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot brought a little cheer to wine enthusiasts this Christmas with his report that may finally open the door to out-of-state shipments of wine.
The report concludes that an end to this state's prohibition of wine shipments will not result in financial disaster to wholesalers and retailers and it will help Maryland wine producers.
The report now goes to the General Assembly for consideration.
While we are appreciative of Franchot's initiative, we are angry that it has taken this long to sort out the well-known truth in this battle between consumers and legislators who have been bullied for years by the liquor industry. Legislators, including county delegation chair Maryann Love, have swallowed the improbable predictions of liquor lobbyists who put the selfish business interests of their clients over the needs of Maryland consumers.
In fact, as the comptroller's study shows, competition would be negligible. The recommendation is to limit consumers to 12 cases a year and only include wine that comes directly from wine producers - out-of-state retailers still would be prohibited from shipping wine directly to consumers. Unfortunately, this prevents Maryland consumers from joining wine-of-the-month clubs, which are considered retailers. But the major benefactor are the consumers who visit wine regions, like Napa Valley, and want to ship back wines they can't find in Maryland - and there are many.
Franchot's report dispels the nagging myth that out-of-state wine shipments would put alcohol in the hands of minors. As we have argued countless times before, minors aren't interested in ordering wine and waiting at their doorsteps for days for it to arrive.
In fact, the report found that nearly 80 percent of serious underage drinkers prefer beer and that the average price of a shipped wine is $36. The conclusion in the report is an understatement: "Underage drinkers do not seem to fit the profile of a directed wine shipment customer."
Among the primary benefactors of change would be the struggling Maryland wine producers who also have been unable to ship their wines to customers in and out of the state.
Thirty-seven states allow wines to be shipped into their jurisdictions and for years Maryland consumers have had to send their wines for pick-up to friends and businesses in Washington and Virginia. These jurisdictions, according to the report, have not experienced the problems predicted by Maryland's liquor lobbyists nor have they seen any serious erosion in in-state sales or taxes. In short, this is not a big deal to the industry - but it is a big deal to consumers who have been unable to legally ship favorite wines.
With these myths now dispelled and the facts documented by the comptroller, we hope 2011 is the year this law is finally relaxed by the legislature. It's time for the consumers to win this argument.