Matthew Mann
June 4, 2010 | Compliance, Wine Industry Trends | Matthew Mann

We’ve Seen This Before: Consumer Access Denied In Delaware

If anyone doubts the opposition to direct consumer access to interstate wine shipments is largely about money, they need look no farther than the recent rejection of a direct consumer access bill by the Delaware House Economic Development and Commerce Committee. In a 5-3 vote the committee decided not to allow the bill to be considered by the entire House. You can read about it here in an article by the Associated Press on BusinessWeek.com.

The usual concerns of access to minors and collection of taxes were foisted up by opponents of the bill, but the real opposition was centered on concerns by wholesalers and retailers of revenue lost to out-of-state wineries from consumers seeking to purchase wines that the wholesalers and retailers likely don’t carry in their own inventories anyway.

Of particular interest were comments by the Teamsters union representative, who said direct shipments would hurt drivers and warehousemen who work in Delaware’s three-tier distribution system. Not stopping there, he further suggested that instead of making consumer access to wine easier for Delaware residents, the state should follow the Maryland example and make such access to an otherwise legal product a felony. It doesn’t appear his primary concern was minor’s gaining access to wine shipments.

It’s interesting that Maryland should be brought into the conversation, since a bill introduced in their own legislature recently failed to get out of committee as well, held back by the powerful committee chairperson, who also happened to be a political ally of the Maryland wholesale tier.

Finally, the director of the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement commented on the difficulty of enforcement, despite acknowledging that the paper trail created by the bill would make it easier to investigate illegal shipments.

I’ll be the first to say I’ve never been to Delaware. I don’t know first-hand the situation in that state. But if I had to guess based on experience, the issues identified by opponents as making direct shipments to consumers a dangerous proposition are not substantially different than those in the 37 states that presently allow such shipments. Why they can manage direct shipment programs and Delaware or Maryland cannot defy an answer, except money and politics.



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