Shipping wines between two states can be a felony charge? And that shipping laws of alcoholic beverages is different from state to state. So what’s the deal with this goofy law anyway? A friend of mine recently asked me to discuss this debated topic.
To begin, the shipping issue was originally brought forth by the repeal of Prohibition in the United States. After prohibition, each state was granted control over its own alcohol shipments within each state. Many states as a result of this decision completely banned all alcohol shipments to and from their state, regardless of the age of the shipper and shippee. It didn’t matter if the same person, from another state, was shipping wines back to his or her own home! What this also means is that if you’re vacationing and find a great wine that you want to ship back home, you’d better hope that you can smuggle it in your luggage because no winery or merchant is going to ship to a state that doesn’t allow it.
The wine distributors argue that these direct wine shipments will cause tax problems, and that minors will have access to alcohol very easily. However, many states that do allow direct shipping are not finding any difficulty in having wineries or merchants charge the tax – it’s working the same way as with any other mail or web ordered products. Furthermore, these states are also indicating that their young people are not patiently waiting by the front door for there fine wines to show up on their doorstep from the Wine Club that they just joined, then forge an adult’s signature and ID to receive it! Let’s face it, what minor is interested in having a wine party? This sounds pretty far fetched if you ask me. The distributors just want to keep us hostage.
Currently, only thirteen states offer what is called “reciprocal” status – this means that you can ship between these states without any trouble with the police. These 13 states are: California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. For now, that’s at least good news for some of us. Unfortunately for the rest of us, it means crying the blues to our state representatives to change our individual state laws.
Moreover, there are several states where the shipping of wines is not “completely illegal”, but there are some restrictions on shipping wines to Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Dist. Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, and Wyoming. Therefore, before shipping any wines to these states; I would check the laws before getting slapped with a felony.
Lastly, there are several states where direct shipping of wine is totally banned all together. These states include: Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
So, what is currently going on with these laws? Currently, bills are being debated in several states regarding the shipment of alcoholic beverages. The continued rise by consumers to shop the web is putting pressure on several of these states to change there laws.
Right now, FedEx and other shippers will refuse to ship to alcohol “non-reciprocal” states if they know the contents of what it is that they are being asked to ship. If you order wine on the web from a company who claims to ship to you, when the above chart shows it should not be allowed, then they’re breaking the rules to do so. One way some folks work around the restriction is to first ship to a reciprocal wine store in a given state. That wine store then reships the package, within state lines, to your doorstep or makes you come pick it up there.
So then, what can us wine lovers that live in one of these restricted states do to change the laws in our state? I would recommend contacting Free the Grapes. Free the Grapes is the most well known and dedicated organization working with each state trying to establish acceptable new guidelines and their web page has a lot of information regarding the current state of this issue in many states. Checkout FreetheGrapes.com.