Legislators in Maryland have disappointed the state’s wine lovers yet again by failing to pass a bill that would have allowed residents to receive wine via the mail. Sadly, the bill gained a sizable majority of the members (12-8) in the House Economic Matters Committee, but it was just shy of the 13 votes required (a majority of committee’s 26 members) before it could go for a full House vote. According to a memo produced by Marylanders for Better Wine and Beer Laws posted by wine writer Rob Garretson, three members were excused from voting, one because of religious views regarding alcohol and two others for unknown reasons. Something seems fishy here.
Staff at Marylanders for Better Wine and Beer Laws are optimistic that the state could open in 2011. This year, the legislature passed Maryland Winery Modernization Act, which Marylanders for Better Wine Laws says reduces regulation on Maryland wineries and allows wineries to open for the first time in Prince George’s County. In addition, the new law funded a study that could help build the case for direct shipping.
Nonetheless, such trade restrictions are just one problem with the prohibition-inspired, state-level regulatory morass. Some states have opened up, but problems abound. Even where shipping is allowed, myriad regulations and taxes needlessly burden consumers. The advocates of regulation make a host of arguments, some of which are quite similar to those made by the temperance movement to advance prohibition. Surely, responsible alcohol use is in order, but government bans and regulations are not necessary to protect us from ourselves. And the massive regulatory bureaucracy is not necessary to ensure simple ID checks to protect children. Instead, it largely serves politically organized players and government budgets.