Fixing Stupid Laws

The somewhat recent revelation that it is technically illegal for home winemakers in California to hold public tastings and even competitions of their wines is one of those instances where a truly out-dated law of little or no value, previously unnoticed, comes to light and makes folks chuckle, shake their heads and get on with getting rid of it for the sake bringing laws and rules into line with reality and good sense.

The move to change the law licketty split is under way. Family Winemakers of California and State Senator Pat Wiggins have joined forces to introduce SB 607, a law that would allow winemaking competition among amateur winemakers.

It’s an easy fix to a pretty stupid law and both FWC and Senator Wiggins should be commended for moving it forward.

Changing stupid laws like this is not always so easy, however, Take for example the CA law that makes it a crime for a an out-of-state retailer to ship wine to a CA resident. This one went into effect in 2005 and was supported by Family Winemakers of California, The California Wine Institute, The California Association of Wine Grapegrowers, Napa Valley Vintners and a number of wineries. The bill was opposed by a number of CA retailers who realized that not only was the law unconstitutional as it discriminated against out-of-state retailers, but that it would encourage other states to lock out CA retailers from shipping to their state residents.

There has been no enthusiasm by California’s winery organizations, Free the Grapes, or any politicians to change this other example of a stupid law, though they all are well aware of the law. One wonders if it will be "discovered" in a few decades and quickly reversed by legislation because it no longer has any value, rhyme or reason.

It turns out this law is actually on hold because retailers sued the state of CA and were able to get an agreement from the state not to enforce it until the end of 2008. However, that time is quickly approaching. One hopes that consumers, wine organizations and politicians will feel an equal urgency to fix one more stupid law when it comes to light.


3 Responses

  1. David Cole - May 8, 2008

    Tom, your comments echo what I have been thinking for the last ten years! We don’t always need “new” laws or legislation! We need the ones we have enforced or removed. Life evolves as does laws and or legislation. Someone would “really” get my vote, if they would actually go to Sacramento or Washington and work on these issues! I finally wouldn’t have to “settle” on a candidate!
    Your right about the current shipping law, we “california” wine folks want to ship all over the world, but then help drive this lame duck law into effect?
    I enjoy your blog, keep up the good work.

  2. Arthur - May 8, 2008

    Interesting. It would seem that all this hoopla about shipping laws (presumably supported and driven by CA producers?) is a case of eating one’s cake and having it too.
    I’d like to see more discussion about this to give the mater more clarity.

  3. Nancy - May 9, 2008

    A new law will go into effect in Illinois this July, also forbidding out-of-state retailers from shipping wine to Illinois consumers. In- and out-of-state producers can ship wine to Illinois consumers, but that’s all.
    Stupid, I agree; but if the concept of terroir also interests us, wouldn’t these laws theoretically help consumers to start being exposed to and understanding their local terroirs? (Then again, do I really want to learn to appreciate Illinois mead?)

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