Michigan Politicians and Wine: Will They Never Learn?

michiganThe Wine Spectator’s Ben O’Donnell covers the legislative goings-on in Michigan whereby the state’s Senate thinks it a brilliant idea to pass a law previously ruled unconstitutional in the state.

On Sept. 20, state Sen. Peter MacGregor introduced Senate Bill 1088…the bill would amend the Michigan Liquor Control Code to allow a [Michigan] retailer…to use a common carrier, such as FedEx or UPS, to sell and deliver wine to a consumer in the state. But the bill deletes references to out-of-state retailers with similar licenses.

Epstein and Tanford recently submitted a letter to the Michigan senate, writing that they “have successfully sued Michigan twice over its discriminatory wine shipping laws that gave favorable treatment to in-state businesses …. Will we really have to sue the state a third time?”

“Tanford and Epstein are two attorneys who sued the State of Michigan in 2008 in a legal challenge to the then identical retailer wine shipping law. The Federal judge in the case ruled, “Well duh…of course discriminating against out-of-state retailers in unconstitutional, you idiot lawmakers” (I’m paraphrasing here).

“This is all to protect wholesalers,” Wark told Wine Spectator. NAWR has also submitted a letter to the Michigan legislature opposing the bill. “We believe it’s because they can’t do anything more than deliver boxes in today’s market, which has become expansive,” said Wark. “And they don’t want to have to compete. They certainly know they can’t provide Michigan consumers with access to the hundreds of thousands of wines available in the U.S. that many Michigan consumers desire but are not brought into the state by wholesalers.”

Did I say that wholesalers have become glorified box movers who can’t compete?

“The Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association opposes out-of-state retailers shipping wine into Michigan because the practice is inconsistent with the three-tier system and isn’t subject to adequate regulation to ensure there is compliance with state laws.”

I have a history of criticizing booze wholesalers, I admit. However, I must say that wholesalers, better than any other segment of the alcohol industry, excel at moving their lips and using words and saying nothing at all. It is a talent we can’t deny.

“If the bill is passed and becomes law, it’s very, very likely to be challenged, and we would welcome such a challenge,” said Wark. “If a third lawsuit was filed (lawsuits concerning retailer shipping are already underway in Illinois and Missouri) it would make it even more likely it would get to the Supreme Court.”

And that’s a good thing.

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