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The Boston Globe reports that the Massachusetts legislature is likely to consider legislature making it illegal for residents of the state to have wine direct shipped to their homes either from in-state or out-of-state locations.

Massachusetts law currently on the books allows direct shipment from in-state wineries, but not from outside the Commonwealth’s borders.

The US Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that it is unconstitutional to discriminate against out-of-state wineries, setting the stage for all states to make a choice – allow all direct shipping, or none.

At the same time, the Detroit News reports that in response to the Supreme Court decision, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox is considering barring all of the state’s wineries from direct-shipping wine – at least “until a new law is passed by the state Legislature that treats both in- and out-of-state wineries the same.”

Numerous states, among them New York and Connecticut, have passed legislation allowing all direct shipping, thereby opening the door for a greater amount of wine to be ordered via the Internet or mail order. There are now 31 states allowing direct shipping.

Opponents of an outright ban on all direct shipping argue that it hurts local winery businesses that will be cut off from one method of competing, putting them at a severe disadvantage. They will have to rely on outside distributors that will be able to mark up products or arbitrarily decide what wines will be available where. (Needless to say, distributors were against the Supreme Court ruling because it potentially reduces their marketing power and profit potential.)

While opponents of new legislation in Massachusetts label the proposal “draconian,” those in favor of it say that a three-tier system (winery to distributor to retailer) insures that minors won’t get access to alcohol and that the state will get its taxes.
KC's View:
It is our opinion that this has everything to do with powerful lobbying efforts on the part of distributors and a concern about tax dollars, and almost nothing to do with legislators being concerned about underage drinking.

(We wonder, for example, how many of these legislators with teenagers at home lock up their alcohol.)

It seems to us to be far more sensible to require credit card companies to ascertain the age of people who have credit cards, and somehow flag purchases made by people under 21 of products that cannot be bought by minors.

The legislators may come out in favor of a three tier system, but they’re only interested in two tiers – their own, and that of the distributors who hire expensive lobbyists.

They’re not concerned with the retailer (who would have a lot more access to new and interesting products if they didn’t have to rely on distributors all the time), nor with the wineries (which would be able to be more competitive). And needless to say, they’re not at all concerned with the consumer.

Consumers, after all, don’t have lobbyists. They do, however, have votes. And ought to use them to toss out people who kowtow to special interests.