It is indicative of Maryland’s legendarily dysfunctional alcohol distribution system, that lawmakers in that state would feel a need to push legislation reasserting their opposition to free and fair trade in wine.
House Bill 987 (Sponsor: Warren Miller) redundantly insists that Marylanders ought to be expressly forbidden from purchasing wine from out-of-state retailers and auction houses and have the wine shipped to them: HB987 reads this way:
To qualify for a direct wine shippers permit, an applicant shall be:
(1) a person licensed outside the State to engage in the manufacture of wine THAT DIRECTLY ENGAGES IN THE MANUFACTURE OF WINE;
It’s the underlined portion above that is the new language added to the law. State wholesalers and retailers pressured lawmakers into introducing the legislation. It will change nothing about how wine is currently procured in Maryland. Currently out-of-state wineries may ship wine into the state with a permit, but the direct wine shipping permit is not made available to retailers.
In 2012, the Maryland Comptroller released a report on the effectiveness of their then new direct wine shipping law that excluded retailer shipping. The comptroller noted that due to the restriction in the law fully 44% of the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines of 2011 “are not available under current law”.
Of course they were not available. When you exclude wine retailers from the direct wine shipping channel you exclude the shipment of any and all imported wines.
If Maryland lawmakers and HB 987 sponsor Delegate Warren Miller had any interest whatsoever in his constituents his bill would explicitly allow out-of-state retailers to obtain a wine shipping permit allowing retailers, wine auction houses and wine clubs to ship wine directly to Maryland consumers. Such a bill would reduce Maryland’s cost of compliance enforcement, result in a significant increase in tax revenue, and provide Maryland consumers with access to each and every wine reviewed by the Wine Spectator, let alone just its Top 100 wines.
HB 987 is scheduled for a hearing in the Maryland House Economic Matters Committee on February 20.