Washington Post Editorial

The Washington Post editorial board came out on Christmas Eve in support of legalizing direct wine shipping.  Here is their editorial:

Maryland's liquor lobby and the politics of obstruction

Thursday, December 24, 2009; A14

THIS TIME of year, holiday cheer often arrives in the form of a gift basket. Very nice, but be warned: If the basket should contain a bottle of wine and -- heaven forbid -- be sent directly to a recipient in Maryland, the shipper and sender could be complicit in a felony.

For this absurdity we can thank Maryland's liquor lobby. The state's barons of booze, who are among the most lavish donors of campaign cash to state lawmakers, have done well for themselves. Only two or three states impose lighter taxes than Maryland does on wine, beer and spirits; for decades, efforts in Annapolis to raise those levies have gone down in flames. And through an antiquated regime known as the "three-tiered system," producers, wholesalers and retailers act in cahoots to stymie consumers and limit selection by banning direct shipments from wineries to Marylanders' homes.

With its cash, clout and stranglehold on the state legislature, Maryland's liquor lobby should be confident enough to drop its opposition to direct wine shipments. All but a dozen or so states have scrapped similar bans in the age of cyber-shopping, and liquor wholesalers and retailers have survived comfortably. In Virginia, for instance, direct shipments, allowed since 2003, account for just 1 percent of wine sold in the state -- not exactly a mortal threat to the commonwealth's liquor sellers.

But Maryland's liquor wholesalers won't give an inch. Until now, neither have their (handsomely rewarded) champions in the legislature.

That may be changing. In the House of Delegates, Carolyn Krysiak, a veteran Baltimore lawmaker who chairs the House Democratic caucus, has broken ranks with her colleagues on the committee that has killed attempts to allow direct shipments. Ms. Krysiak's conversion could have repercussions, particularly if House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) gets on board; last year, a bill to permit direct shipping was co-sponsored by more than half the members of the House and would have passed easily had it survived the committee. Now there may be a chance.

In the state Senate, President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), whose family owns a liquor store, has taken little interest in the issue. He should take more. Lifting the ban would signal to voters that the Senate is capable of steering Maryland into the modern era despite the toxic influence of the liquor lobby's campaign cash.

The industry's arguments against direct shipments are lame. One is that teenagers might use it to circumvent the state's drinking age by ordering alcohol delivered at home. In fact, most teens get beer (not wine) by having an older friend buy it for them. The liquor lobby is also fond of defending the status quo by pointing to a mechanism in which consumers can direct-order wine for delivery to a nearby retailer through the normal wholesale network. But that mechanism has proved unwieldy and unworkable.

The current system is an oligopoly that serves the interests of a tiny fraternity of insiders at the expense of consumers -- not to mention Maryland's 41 wineries, which are also banned from shipping to consumers. Mr. Miller, Mr. Busch and their legislative lieutenants in Annapolis say the ban will be lifted at some point, but they won't commit to a date. Until they do, Marylanders are entitled to be outraged that their leaders continue bowing to big-spending special interests.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

deepthroat21 wrote:
"Walking in a Winter Wonderland" much?

... When was that "song" written? ... I don't know. ...I'm asking .... OK?

... About those ... "special" ... interests.
12/24/2009 5:33:18 PM

ggreenbaum wrote:
krush01: Wine is expensive for teens to get drunk on. They'd rather drink beer, which has more bang for the buck. However, beer is very expensive to ship. I'm not sure anyone is proposing shipping hard liquor.
12/24/2009 11:33:58 AM

tmcquighan wrote:
The Annapolis leadership was quoted recently in the press that this change is not important enough to get on the MD agenda this year. The law according to insiders in Annapolis is that it has not been around long enough to be considered. These are the ways Annapolis leadership justifies and ensures that alcohol lobby payments continue for a few more years.
12/24/2009 11:24:03 AM

paulrichards wrote:
So Very Very Very true.

How can a half-dozen greedy liquor brokers trump Maryland Consumers, Maryland Wineries, Maryland Retailers and Maryland Farmers?

The only answer -- hopefully, in the past -- is Money! It is time for our Senators & Delegates, beginning with Michael Busch and Mike Miller to Lead. They must do their job.

No excuses. No "I'm too busy". No lets take a few years to study the situation. This bill has been abused for 20 years.

Paul A. Hoffstein
Annapolis, MD
12/24/2009 11:09:21 AM

bleonardi wrote:
A FedEx/UPS driver has no incentive to deliver to an underage person. Just ask one about the consequences of doing so. Plus they are paid whether the package is delivered or returned. However a liquor store loses a sale when they don't sell to underage person. So which system is more likely to fail?
12/24/2009 10:37:03 AM

bleonardi wrote:
Direct shipment is a win-win for the state (purchases will be taxed) and consumers, with no perceivable negative impact on anyone - based on the actual experience in other states NOT the propaganda spread by the liquor lobby. Thanks to The Post for highlighting this issue!
12/24/2009 10:31:56 AM

foxxmacpryor wrote:
What is news here,that the crips and bloods in Annapolis are good at their crimes at the legislature houses.
12/24/2009 10:12:32 AM

gpokmd wrote:
Support Better Beer and Wine Laws in Maryland at http://www.mbbwl.org/
Gregory Pokrywka MD FACP
12/24/2009 10:11:52 AM

gary30 wrote:
For teenagers to have booze sent to them, they'd have to have an unsupervised credit card account AND make sure that their parents aren't home when it's delivered. I doubt allowing deliveries would lead to a spike in underage drinking.
12/24/2009 9:35:10 AM

ggreenbaum wrote:
I think this is too strict, but it is up to the people of Maryland to make an issue of it if they want change.
12/24/2009 9:06:03 AM

krush01 wrote:
Most teenagers get their booze from older friends because it cannot be shipped directly to them. When it can be shipped why would they rely on older friends?
12/24/2009 5:53:06 AM

© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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.

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