NOW MARYLAND - Printable Version

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- Jerry D Mead - 02-04-1999 08:54 AM

Even though this is written for minors, the danger is once again that shippers will not take the risk if there is ANY potential felony charge. So they pass one that no one can argue with, but it has the affect of blocking all shipments. JDM

HB 278 was introduced to make it a felony to ship into Maryland. What is
quoted below is the summary of the bill. No full text yet. Note it says
that it is a felony to ship to UNDERAGE recipient that does not have the
required licenses. How about people that are of age?

This bill was sponsered by the following delegates:

Goldwater, Bronrott, and Kopp

"Making it a felony for a person in the business of selling or distributing
alcoholic beverages outside the State to ship or deliver alcoholic
beverages to an underage recipient who does not hold the requisite license;
clarifying that this offense includes shipments of alcoholic beverages
ordered or purchased over a computer network; and imposing a maximum
penalty of a $1,000 fine or imprisonment of 2 years or both."

Web site for this bill:

- amshih - 02-04-1999 11:52 AM

Of course, the bill only prohibits shipments from outside the state, but not from *within* the state. Commerce Clause violation? Looks like it to me!

- EPICURUS - 02-04-1999 01:33 PM

This is pretty crafty of the crafters. Yes it applies to transactions with underage consumers, but the effect will be to scare off all shipments, since Maryland is notorious for stings. A producer or e-tailer never really knows whether the person submitting an order is a minor who has been put up to it by the wholesalers or regulators.

I still think, however, that if a purchaser states that s/he is of age, etc. and this is a falsehood that the threat of a conviction is voided. Not that any winery or wine club wants to run this risk.

- Kcwhippet - 02-04-1999 03:40 PM


This is getting absurd. Isn't there some way the Wine Institute and the CFT are able to attempt to counter these bills as they are introduced? I'm sure legislative calendars are public, so when anti shipping legislation comes up they can be there. I don't know enough about the inner workings about them to know if their funds are too tight to do that. Regardless, there has to be some way to counter the WSWA and their minions.

- Jerry D Mead - 02-04-1999 08:34 PM

I have posted your exact questions to several in power at the organizations you mentioned...we'll see if we get any response.


- Jerry D Mead - 02-05-1999 03:25 PM

KC...I've been asked to copy and paste in the message from someone who is very politically savvy re the wine biz. JDM

The writer is correct--it is absurd that so little is being done to counter the
plethora of laws being proposed and promulgated across the country. While I
believe the only successful course toward changing anti-direct shipping laws is
through the courts (which is CFT's mission), it is appalling that so little
visible political and public relations efforts are being made to fight the new
avalanche of state laws limiting direct shipping and criminalizing direct

At the insistence of mainline wine trade associations, the responsibility for
carrying the political and public relations fight is in the hands of Wine
Institute (WI), American Vintners Association in DC (AVA) and the newly formed
Free the Grapes! (FTG!).

CFT, the the industry's former, highly effective "attack dog," is no longer
involved in the political and public relations aspects of the fight. (CFT has
returned to its original goal of defeating the wholesalers and states in court
were it met much success in Florida defending direct shippers.)

I believe, as the writer indicates, the industry is not aggressively challenging
the current round of wholesaler/local retailers and state attack on direct
shipping. Frankly, the mainline organizations have never fought back with great
vigor and they opposed CFT for doing so. Since the vast majority of US wineries
and wine consumers support legalizing direct shipping, one must question why
mainline industry organizations have not elevated the issue to the highest

As the writer suggests, there are ways to politically counter WSWA and their
retail and state supplicants. It only takes commitment, money and guts. The key
is the latter and it is in very short supply.


- amshih - 02-05-1999 05:36 PM

I find it interesting that the mainline wine industry groups opposed CFT for being aggressive. I find it puzzling...WC, any more insights on why this was so?

I'm currently doing free legal research for CFT (thanks WC for making the contact for me!); CFT shifted from legislative fights to courtroom fights primarily because it appeared legislative fights weren't working. WSWA has many allies and minions to do their bidding; it seems harder to organize angry consumers to help the cause. I think that FTG!, while nice, is simply not enough to mobilize consumers. Besides, there don't seem to be enough wine consumers anyway -- that, we need to increase too.

I apologize for my rambling, by the way.

- Jerry D Mead - 02-06-1999 02:25 AM

The mainstream industry has always been wimpy about fighting for itself...for a couple of reasons. For one, too many lawyers warning of the down side, better to be safe and take the middle road, fear of third party liability suits, not to mention having to do business with those very same wholesalers whose monopoly you're trying to take away. It's the reason New York still doesn't have supermarket, department store, drug store or any kind of chain store sales. All the businesses that would benefit most, fear retribution from the retailers with the current monopoly in the event they are not successful..and with just cause. NY wineries which have publicly supported grocery store sales have been totally boycotted by the retailers.

Then you also have to understand that most of the really large wine operations are owned by distillers and half pints of Seagram 7 or Four Roses ain't ever going to become an Internet sales item. The big distillers have a vested interest in the existing system and they own the wineries which are big enough to have the bucks to do the legal wrangling. The distillers have strong alliances with the major wholesalers in the country.

Consumers are ineffective, because they mostly have no idea what politicians are doing to them until after it's done, and once legislation is passed it's almost impossibleto consumers don't bribe the legislators with huge political contributions and have no full time lobbiests working on the case.

Plus the anti-alcohol and anti-shipping forces raise straw dogs like thee threat to minors and loss of taxes and it's not easy to explain to the average consumer why the minor issue just isn't valid when it comes to Internet commerce.

That's some of the problems and it's why the courts and the Constitution are our best shot.