18 January 2010

Mass. wine-shipping ban declared unconstitutional--Md. next?

Read all about it here.  Or you could read the downright trivial mention of the same story in the Boston Globe (third paragraph!), or the full AP story in the Boston Herald.  (Media bias?  We report, you decide.)

An interesting detail in the law was that it prohibited out-of-state wineries from shipping directly, but not online wine retailers that maintained some specific legal presence in the commonwealth (wine.com is specifically mentioned in the comments of the Herald piece).  Furthermore, it exempted in-state wineries, none of whom were large enough to reach the 30,000-barrel threshold of the law.  One could make the case that this law was indeed about protecting tax revenues, more so than the more broadly-written Maryland law.

(Important name being dropped in the piece:  "Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office had appealed the earlier ruling by a federal district court judge on behalf of the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission."  This is, of course, the same Martha Coakley that was named to temporarily replace the late Edward Kennedy in what has sarcastically been called "the Kennedy seat" in the U.S. Senate in a district as thoroughly Democrat as central Maryland, and is now in a runoff race now regarded as neck-and-neck with Republican challenger Scott Brown in a race widely seen as a pre-2010-election referendum on the 2009 actions and proposals of President Obama and the Congress.)

A couple state officials I have spoken with lately have predicted that 2010 will see the end of Maryland's similar ban on wine shipments to residents, be it through lobbying by the industry or by court challenges.  And beer shipments, though not necessarily under the exact same legal clauses, may be legalized soon thereafter, if all goes as these state folks predict to me.

Vaguely related: Nice long cover story in Philadelphia's Philadelphia Weekly on  Pennsylvania's liquor laws, quoting fellow writer/blogger Lew Bryson for the opposition.  Maryland's laws aren't quite so screwy--I joke that I moved to Maryland to get away from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board--but there are lessons to be learned from their horrid examples, sadly.  Including the lead part of the PW story: The PLCB wants to sell wine from vending machines--complete with a breathalyzer you'll have to blow into as part of the purchase.

1 comment:

Caederus said...

Not an expert, nor even a Lawyer, but as I understand the federal angle, If you allow some people to ship, you have to allow all people to ship. Doesn't Maryland's law prohibit all direct shipments? and so might pass federal court muster?