Here’s a scenario: you're in California, visiting a winery and want to buy wine and have it shipped back to you. You hear "Can't ship to Maryland." It's a felony to ship to a Maryland resident—including jail time or $2,000 in fines for the shipper.
No more. Starting July 1, Maryland citizens will legally be allowed to order and receive wine to their doorsteps. (Can we get a woohoo?!)
The effort to allow wine shipments to Marylanders began 30 years ago when Rob Deford of Boordy Vineyards testified in support of legislation in 1981. Since then, groups like the Maryland Wineries Association have argued that its wineries—while able to ship to residents of 37 states plus DC—were prohibited from shipping to its best and most likely customers in Maryland.
In recent years, the citizenry united to form Marylanders for Better Beer and Wine Laws, a group that argued that their ability to order/receive wine by mail was a basic right and that Maryland's three-tier system's insistence that it's the best and only method to source wines was, well, out-dated, out-moded and out of touch.
This year's General Assembly agreed.
The issue came of age this past legislative session after a multi-year build-up and an election that brought some new perspectives to the General Assembly.
Delegates Jolene Ivey and Senator Jamie Raskin introduced legislation based on the national model legislation put forth by the Wine Institute and WineAmerica. Delegate Tom Hucker offered legislation modified with more stringent shipping and reporting requirements for wineries. But it was alcohol subcommittee chair Delegate Charles Barkley who brought all sides together in the House—and Senator Joan Carter-Conway in the Senate—to create consensus legislation agreed-to by many of the groups involved in the discussion.
The one major downside of the new law is the fact that wine shops were not included in this year's direct shipping legislation. Future-minded shops would like to be able to offer their wines via the Internet to anyone in or out of Maryland, but the General Assembly wanted to take the first step of allowing wineries to ship, based on years of testimony by wineries and citizens asking for wine to be shipped after visiting wineries.
How does this impact Maryland wineries? For starters, it lets Maryland wineries be competitive with wineries in the other 37 states who can ship wine. It lets our wineries develop wine clubs to service their customers who want to try sometimes hard-to-find or exclusive wines.
To get wine by mail, the winery must have a Maryland Direct Shipper's Permit ($200/annually), which is obtained from the Office of the Comptroller. Each winery can ship up to 18 cases per year per household. It will take some time for your favorite (in- or out-of-state) winery to get their permit, but encourage them to do so.
I look forward to watching our industry grow as it takes advantage of the new law, and am happy to finally tell the many emailers and callers to our office a very different answer to the "can I ship wine to my home" question we've been asked for years: YES.