Michigan wine association contends out-of-state alcohol is unregulated
The National Association of Wine Retailers have again called on Michigan lawmakers to lift a ban on out-of-state wine shipments, noting a federal judge deemed the prohibition to be unconstitutional.
The decision against the ban was issued a year ago by U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow, who ruled Michigan’s law prohibiting such wine shipments violated the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause by interfering with interstate commerce via protectionist legislation.
Tarnow’s ruling was delayed while awaiting a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, which in June handed down a decision that states may not enact protections against alcohol laws that burden interstate commerce, according to a news release from the wine retailers.
“It’s high time Michigan lawmakers dismiss the pleas of special interests who have four times now convinced the state to defend protectionist wine-shipping laws … and that have four times been overturned in federal courts as unconstitutional,” said Tom Wark, executive director of the wine retailers group. “It’s time for the Legislature to craft a constitutional law that doesn’t seek to protect special interests, but rather allows Michigan consumers to receive wine shipments from out-of-state wine retailers and the state to collect sales tax on those shipments.”
Proponents of the ban claim that wine-of-the-month clubs are often fly-by-night operations that rip off Michigan buyers. And despite the ban, illegal wine is still finding its way into the Mitten State.
New data from the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association finds almost one-third of all the bottles of wine shipped into the state in the first quarter of this year – 130,000 bottles – were sent illegally.
“It harms the consumer as well because you don’t know what you’re actually getting,” Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association President Spencer Nevins told WSJM talk radio. “There’s no way to regulate what’s happening with these out-of-state retailers whether they’re shipping counterfeit alcohol, changing labels, whether the product’s been stored correctly.”
Nevins added that illegal shipments rob the state of tax revenue and hurt small retailers and the state’s wine industry.
Wark said it’s time the wine war ended.
“Michigan taxpayers have watched hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of their dollars spent on the defense of bad laws pushed by the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers,” Wark said.
Nevins urged the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to continue its crackdown on illegal shipments.
“They (the Liquor Control Commission) follow up with cease-and-desist orders to try to get them to stop, but what we find with a lot of these retailers is it’s kind of like whack-a-mole,” Nevins told WSJM. “They set up one shop, and as soon as they get a cease-and-desist, they change the name and ship again.”