Marylanders still can't buy wine via 'Net

You may be able to enjoy a glass of wine while you're on your computer in Maryland, but don't try getting the two any closer.

As reported by Baltimore Sun:

ANNAPOLIS, MD (March 8) -- A House of Delegates committee yesterday rejected a bill that would let Maryland consumers buy wine directly from Internet merchants and wineries, as is permitted in at least 35 other states.

The bill was also debated yesterday in the Senate, though its chance of passage appears slim.

Wine lovers and Maryland wineries have been battling the state's liquor distributors for several years over the issue. Under current law, online direct-to-consumer sales of alcohol are largely prohibited because they circumvent the "three tier" regulatory system in place that requires producers to sell to wholesalers, who distribute cases of wine to retail stores.

Sen. Jamie B. Raskin, the Montgomery County Democrat sponsoring the bill, yesterday railed against "antiquated economic protectionism" that benefits liquor distributors and merchants. Though a self-described "teetotaler," Raskin exhorted his colleagues to "create a free market in wine. ... Free the grapes!"

Bruce C. Bereano, a lobbyist representing the Licensed Beverage Distributors of Maryland, argued that Raskin's bill would hurt Maryland wineries, reduce distribution-related jobs in the state, hamper tax collection and make it easier for minors to obtain alcohol.

"If you make it so profoundly easy for national wine brands to get their product directly to consumers, they're going to take out Maryland wineries," Bereano said.

The association representing state wineries disagrees.

"The ability to ship wine to a consumer is one of many methods provided by law in other states to encourage the growth and prosperity of small wineries," said Maryland Wineries Association executive director Kevin M. Atticks in his written testimony. Maryland's current laws are "frustrating for consumers and almost impossible to explain to customers," he said.

(You can see the rest of the story here on the Sun's Web site.)

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