Wine shipment plan appears shelved

March 18, 2010|By Annie Linskey | annie.linskey@baltsun.com

The proposal to allow direct shipment of wine in Maryland might have to age for another year, after the Senate voted Wednesday to require the state's comptroller to study how 37 other states have implemented similar measures.

"I think it will set us on a course for passage next year," said Sen. Jamie Raskin, after offering the study as an amendment to a related wine-sale bill.

The study is supposed to push forward the contentious issue of lifting a Maryland ban on shipping wine to residences via the postal service - an increasingly popular method for small vineyards across the country to market and sell their product.

Maryland's powerful liquor lobby opposes lifting the ban, arguing that wine-by-mail circumvents controls in place to protect minors from imbibing. The measure was heard by a Senate panel Wednesday but is widely thought to have little chance of passing this year.

Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat, wants the study to address how other states have handled abuse by underage drinkers.

His measure was attached to a different piece of legislation, which would allow local vineyards to sell their wines at farmers' markets and expand their tastings and food services. That bill is widely seen as a compromise measure offered to winery owners disappointed about the lack of momentum on the issue.

Raskin had also prepared a second amendment that would have simply lifted the shipping ban, but he decided not to offer it after winery owners expressed concerned that his change would kill the underlying compromise measure.

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