Maryland Wine Community Generally Pleased with Comptroller's Report
By Paul Vigna
Published: Friday, December 24, 2010, 5:16 PM
The Maryland wine community received an early Christmas present from the Maryland Comptroller's office, which earlier this week released a report on wine shipping. It comes shortly before another attempt is made to change the shipping laws in the state. Actually, those interested in what the Comptroller's office had to say might need between now and the beginning of the legislative session Jan. 12, 2011, to read and digest the 257-page document.
The Baltimore Sun story on the report included a quote from Delegate Tom Hucker, who has sponsored direct-shipment bills and plans to do so again. He said he felt that the report should advance the cause of greater consumer choice.
"The comptroller's report pushes the process forward by raising visibility,and my understanding is it demolishes a lot of myths the industry has been spreading against direct-ship bills for many years," said Hucker, who's a Montgomery County Democrat.
Maryland Wineries Association Executive Director Kevin Atticks through the report gave substantial ammunition to the 30-year attempt to implement direct shipping.
“The report finds no evidence of increased underage access, no problems collecting taxes and no increase in alcohol abuse in any of the jurisdictions that allow direct shipping," an MWA press release said. Atticks told the Sun, "This report clearly drives a nail into all of those arguments. We're thrilled that we can start this year's discussion with facts."
Adam Borden is the president of the organization called Marylanders for Better Beer & Wine Laws and let me know that the report was out. Asked for reaction, he wrote back the following:
The MD Comptroller's report was thorough and apolitical in many respects - the history of alcohol regulation, the legislative history in Maryland and the regulations in other states - but certain conclusions seemed curiously derived. The model National Conference of State Legislatures' (NCSL) wine shipping legislation recommends a 24 case limit, the average in other states is 16, yet the MD Comptroller found 12 cases to be the "best practice." This defies logic. Similarly, the recommendation that out-of-state retailers be prohibited from shipping to Maryland did not comport with the survey results (66% of retailers said they wanted shipping if wineries also got the right) or why Maryland consumers purchase wine from out-of-state retailers (availability was the highest-ranked reason, supported by the response that Maryland consumers would overwhelmingly purchase from their local retailer first if given a choice). We are very appreciative of the Comptroller's hard work and diligence, especially as it has raised this issue's profile significantly.
The NCSL saw this post and contacted me the next day, requesting a clarification on the reference that Borden made in his quote. Meagan Dorsch, the director of public affairs for the organization, wrote: "NCSL tracks legislation from all 50 states and territories, but we do not create model legislation."