Report: Lift of MD Wine Shipment Ban Would Not Increase Underage Drinking
By: Lisa Gartner 12/21/10 8:05 PM
Examiner Staff Writer
A report from Maryland's comptroller found that allowing shipment of wine from out of state does not contribute to underage drinking, deflating the most comment argument for the state's current ban -- and lawmakers are already lining up to repeal the law.
Comptroller Peter Franchot also found that shipment from out-of-state wineries would not hurt the local liquor industry, although imports from out-of-state retailers could have an impact.
His office examined the 37 states that allow direct shipment along with the District, and identified practices that minimize the risk of underage alcohol consumption. For example, packages should be labeled as containing alcohol, and services such as FedEx and UPS should deliver only to adults 21 or over.
But minors generally were not interested in abusing a direct-ship system to get an illegal fix, said Joseph Shapiro, spokesman for the comptroller's office.
"Their number one concern is immediacy," Shapiro said. "Your parents are going out of town this weekend, let's have a party, that type of thing. With direct ship, the shipment just takes too long."
And law enforcement agencies in states that allow direct-ship reported that wine is not the alcohol of choice for most underage drinkers.
"They're more apt to be drinking beer or wine coolers," said Shapiro, also pointing out the price concern. "A bottle of wine online is certainly more expensive than a six-pack of beer from the local store."
The report also concluded that direct shipment from out-of-state wineries to Maryland consumers would not hurt in-state providers, because purchases from wineries are mostly motivated by availability.
However, allowing shipments from out-of-state retailers could hurt the local industry as Maryland wine aficionados seek out deals: A survey of the general Maryland population found that 47.2 percent would comparison-shop online before purchasing wine in a local store. Even if the prices were equal, nearly one-third would order the wine online.
More than 100 lawmakers from both houses supported a bill ending the ban last spring, which concluded with a request for the report after the state's strong liquor lobby fought the change.
Del. Tom Hucker, D-Silver Spring, says he is drafting a bill for the General Assembly session starting next month. "It's terrific that the report debunks the myth that special interests have been spreading for years," said Hucker, who introduced the bill in 2008 and 2009, and served as a co-sponsor in the last General Assembly. "I think the comptroller's report only pushes the ball forward, farther than it has ever been. This is the year we can expect some movement."