Home Politics Bill seeks to allow direct-consumer shipping from out-of-state wine retailers

Bill seeks to allow direct-consumer shipping from out-of-state wine retailers

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Bill seeks to allow direct-consumer shipping from out-of-state wine retailers

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Wine drinkers could open their front door to a broader selection of products if a bipartisan bill allowing out-of-state retailers to ship directly to consumers becomes law.

Currently, Michiganders can only order wine to their home from in- and out-of-state wineries.

Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Wayland, introduced House Bill 5579, joining forces with Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak, who filed companion legislation.

“More options for Michigan consumers is always a good thing,” Johnson said in a statement. “This will create a level playing field for all who want to safely and securely have wine shipped to their homes, and bring access to this industry in line with a growing number of states, which stands at 15 currently.”

Under the legislation, out-of-state wine retailers and wine clubs licensed as retailers would adhere to the same process currently followed by out-of-state wineries that ship directly to consumers: register with the state; pay sales tax; and verify age while ordering and at the time of delivery.

“In an era when consumers can get everything from glasses to mattresses to razors and meal kits delivered right to their homes, this legislation just makes sense,” McMorrow said in a statement.

McMorrow said the plan could draw tax revenue for the state from across the country and grow the business of local wineries and distillers.

Rich Lockwood, owner of Motor City Gas Whiskey Distillery in Royal Oak, said the legislation would be “an instant game changer” for the craft distilling and agriculture industries.

“Not only would it make it easier for new small distillers to enter the industry, but it creates a bridge for existing small distillers like Motor City Gas to grow into regular retail distribution,” Lockwood said in a press release.

Spencer Nevins, president of the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association, told The Center Square in a statement that they strongly oppose both bills.

“This legislation will water down consumer protections and remove a crucial check and balance to monitor and regulate what is being shipped to the doorsteps of Michigan consumers.”

“For the last year-and-a-half we have monitored illegal wine shipments coming into our state and the numbers are staggering. These bills will only further open the floodgates to bad actors who are illegally shipping alcohol into the state with little regard for consumer safety, while avoiding paying state taxes in the process.”

Tom Wark, executive director of the National Association of Wine Retailers (NAWR), said the current wine shipping law had cost the state millions of dollars in litigation costs, lost tax revenue, and restricted wine choice.

“Moreover, the bipartisan support for the bill is an indication that the current anti-consumer ban on wine shipments is repugnant no matter where you are on the political spectrum,” Wark said in a press release.

NAWR estimated that most Michigan consumers could only access about 11 percent of wines approved to be sold in America between 2014 and October 27, 2017.

Michigan federal courts have ruled twice that state laws barring in-state shipments from out-of-state wine retailers and clubs are unconstitutional, according to a NAWR press release.

If the legislation is enacted, it will halt the lawsuit, which the state appealed in 2019 to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Federal District Judge Arthur Tarnow wrote in 2018: “Michigan is therefore operating an unjustifiable protectionist regime in its consumer wine market, a privilege unsanctioned by the Twenty-first Amendment and forbidden by the dormant Commerce Clause [of the United States’ Constitution].”



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