Alcohol Regulatory Roundup: December 21st

Maryland: Lawmakers will likely pass a measure next year allowing direct shipping of wine to Maryland residents. Vineyards, especially smaller wine makers, claim that direct shipping increases demand and their ability to compete with larger producers. Wholesalers, as usual, oppose the measure as it circumvents their long-held grip on the distribution of alcohol in Maryland.

New Jersey:  An appeals court in New Jersey determined that while the ban on direct shipping of wine to state residents is constitutional, other parts of New Jersey’s alcohol beverage control laws are in violation of the dormant commerce clause.  In the case Freeman v. Fischer, two New Jersey wine enthusiasts who “seek access to more Kosher wines,” and a California winery brought a suit against Jerry Fischer, New Jersey’s Director of Alcoholic Beverage Control. In his opinion, Pennsylvania District Court Judge Louis H. Pollak (sitting by designation) wrote that legal precedent affirms the state’s right to enforce a three-tier system, but that a ban on direct shipping for only out-of-state wineries would be a violation of the dormant commerce clause. Prior to the 2005 Supreme Court case Granholm v. Heald, New Jersey did allow in-state wineries to ship directly to consumers, but rescinded the ability in anticipation of the outcome of the Supreme Court case.

Judge Pollak did strike at certain provision of New Jersey alcohol beverage control laws, including New Jersey’s allowing certain in-state wineries to obtain licenses that allow them to bypass the three-tier system by selling directly to retailers while forcing out-of-state producers to funnel their product through wholesalers. Judge Pollak declared that because the licensing requirements prevent out-of-state vineyards from obtaining the privilege of bypassing wholesalers, they are discriminatory and reversed the District Court’s decision in favor of New Jersey’s liquor control laws. The full opinion can be read here

New York: State lawmakers today will discuss the possible banning of energy drink sales to Suffolk County residents under the age of 19 years old. While the story doesn’t directly involve alcohol, the proposal comes as a result of last month’s alcoholic energy drink hysteria.

South Carolina: Small breweries plan on challenging state laws that prevent tasting and sales of beer on premise at the brewery. South Carolina law requires distribution of beer and spirits through an independent wholesaler.

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