Published on: Wednesday, January 20, 2010
By Marylanders for Better Beer & Wine Laws
Have you ever visited a winery and wanted to ship some back to your home?
Or have you ever thought about giving someone a gift basket with a
bottle of wine in it? Both of these activities are felony crimes in
Maryland requiring mandatory jail time, yet Maryland residents can
legally receive ammunition, fireworks and narcotics delivered legally
to their doors.
“Maryland is one of only three states left in the United States where
wine shipping is a felony,” said Adam Borden, executive director of
Marylanders for Better Beer & Wine Laws, the main consumer group
pushing to change the law. “In a day and age when virtually anything
else can be delivered directly to your door, our wine shipping ban
seems a little antiquated for such a progressive state.”
Maryland’s criminal statute around wine shipping dates back decades and
has gone unchallenged largely due to the power and influence of the
liquor lobby. The Washington Post wrote a Dec. 24 editorial entitled
“Maryland’s Liquor Lobby and the Politics of Obstruction” that
highlighted this connection. “The state’s barons of booze, who are
among the most lavish donors of campaign cash to state lawmakers … act
in cahoots to stymie consumers and limit selection by banning direct
shipments from wineries to Marylanders’ homes,” reads the editorial.
Of the approximately 6,500 American wineries, only 15 percent sell in
the state, primarily because they are too small to interest a
distributor. Almost all of Maryland’s 38 wineries fall into this
category, which means that their products are thinly distributed and
largely unavailable. Prince George’s County is one of only a few
counties left without a homegrown winery operation.
Borden’s group is promoting a law change that would allow not only
wineries but also retailers to be able to ship to Maryland consumers.
Maryland liquor law prohibits a resident from holding more than one
liquor license, so entrepreneurial store owners are limited in how they
can grow their businesses.
The proposed legislation would allow stores to sell online and deliver
for the first time in Maryland. Several Maryland fine wine stores have
joined his board while others around the state like State Line Liquors
in Elkton have been profiled as supportive in the Cecil Whig’s article
“Wine Merchants Want Freedom to Mail You a Bottle.”
A number of the Prince George’s County delegation figure prominently in
this bill’s fate. In the Maryland House of Delegates, Del. Dereck Davis
(D-25) chairs the Economic Matters Committee that first hears the
legislation. Del. Aisha Braveboy (D-25) is on the nine-member Alcohol
Sub-Committee that recommends whether this legislation should be
favorably received by the full Economic Matters Committee, where
colleague, Del. Michael Vaughn (D-24), will also have the chance to
vote on it. None of these delegates co-sponsored last year’s
The companion legislation in the Maryland Senate is heard by the
nine-member Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs
Committee which counts two Prince George’s County delegation members
among its members. Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-22) has previously supported the
wine shipping bill in years past while Sen. Jim Rosapepe (D-21) has not.
The wine shipping legislation has never successfully left its
respective committees, a situation the Baltimore Sun described as
“bottled up” in committee in its similarly named September editorial,
encouraging the committees to pass the bill to the full chamber. The
issue of wine shipping has been discussed in Annapolis for 29 years.
“I’m really optimistic that 2010 will be our vintage so to speak,” said
Borden. “Our elected officials should once and for all stand up to the
liquor lobby to represent their constituents’ interests.”
Marylanders for Better Beer & Wine Laws