Abraham Lincoln Was Right About Wine Laws
A Pennsylvania lawyer was recently sentenced to probation and community service. His crime? Obtaining fine wine outside of the Pennsylvania state liquor store, then selling a portion to a small list of other wine loving individuals who, like the lawyer, were unable to obtain these wines locally. They were operating on the Black Market.
In addition to the probation and community service, the lawyer also had his 2,400-bottle wine collection confiscated from his home. The wine is set to be destroyed as “contraband”. The estimated value of these wines is $125,000.
The real problem for Pennsylvania is that it collected no taxes on these wines. Nor did it collect any mark-up on these wines since they were not purchased through the state-run wine stores. Of course it never could have collected mark up on these wines because they were never sold via the state system.
However, had the perpetrator been legally able to purchase these wines and have them shipped directly to him from an out-of-state winery or retailer, the state would have collected $6,000 in sales tax, instead of surely spending 1000s of dollars to put together the sting to catch him and process him.
It’s highly likely that the current effort headed up by Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett to privatize the Pennsylvania state wine story system will fail. It’s also likely that Governor Corbett will not be re-elected, making future attempts to reform this out-dated, inefficient system unlikely for some time. The only way, under these circumstances, that Pennsylvanians will ever see better access to fine wine is if they do two things:
1. Decriminalize the transport of wine into Pennsylvania from another neighboring state.
2. Legalize direct to consumer shipment from out-of-state wineries and retailers.
There is no doubt in my mind that the State of Pennsylvania is currently losing 100s of 1,000s of dollars annually on tax revenue not collected from the direct shipment of wine. This particular lawyer is surely the tip of the iceberg.
Whenever you have in place laws such as the ban on direct shipping that make sense to absolutely no one except the commercial interests they are in place to protect, the citizens of the state give no respect to the laws and have no problem breaking those laws. It isn’t even a matter of good old-fashioned civil disobedience. It’s just a matter of the state and it’s lawmakers bringing down disrespect for the process and for the law by choosing to protect a very small set of special interests at the expense of its citizens.
The direct-to-consumer shipping channel will open up in Pennsylvania. Of this I have no doubt. In fact, the more frequently these prohibitions are enforced by the state, the faster they will be repealed. When it does, the state will gain respect from many who no longer respect its laws or law making process and will also collect a boatload of tax revenue and won’t have to spend thousands of dollars taking down the very scary wine lovers in its midst.