Alcoholic beverage shipment bills introduced again

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State Rep. Michael Smith, R-Pike Creek, is once again attempting to end Delaware’s ban on consumer wine shipments.

This time around, Smith was joined by a fellow Republican sponsoring a bill that would allow Delaware farm-craft beverage beer, cider and spirits producers to ship their products.

Delaware, Utah, and Mississippi remain the only three states prohibiting direct-to-consumer wine shipping.

“To be clear, my bill deals solely with direct-to-consumer wine sales — shipments sent from wineries to buyers,” Smith said.

Delawareans purchase wine through a process that forces alcoholic beverage sales through a three-tier system of distributors, wholesalers, and retailers established following the repeal of Prohibition 90 years ago. States went in all directors, with neighboring Pennsylvania opting for state-owned wine and spirts stores.

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According to the National Association of American Wineries, there are over 10,000 wineries in the U.S., with the vast majority being low-volume operations.

Smith’s previous efforts have gone nowhere, reportedly due to lobbying effots by some liquor owners and unions fearing less business. Smith and other backers of the bill say direct wine sales would amount to a tiny percentage of total sales.

Under Smith’s bill, with bipartisan co-sponsors, wine producers must obtain a license to ship directly to Delaware consumers and pay the same taxes levied on retail sales. The products must be sent via a permitted common carrier in proper wine delivery protocols. The act would require an adult at least 21 years old to sign for the delivery. Wine producers would be limited to shipping no more than three, nine-liter cases per year to any single household.

A second bill dealing with the direct home shipment of alcoholic beverages contains much the same provisions as the first but goes beyond wine.

House Bill 259, sponsored by State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, R-Clayton, would allow the shipping and delivery of wine, beer, spirits, mead, or cider produced by farm wineries, microbreweries, or craft distilleries directly to Delaware consumers.

“My constituents have asked for this convenience,” Spiegelman said. “This is a pragmatic law that has been enacted elsewhere and worked. Delawareans can already get sensitive materials, such as prescription drugs, delivered to their front doors. The question isn’t, ‘Why should we do this?’ The question is, ‘Why haven’t we done this already?”

Both measures will go before the House Economic Development/Banking/Insurance & Commerce Committee. The 152nd General Assembly will resume its work in early January.

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