Consider the Floridian who fell in love with a certain merlot on a visit to a Yakima Valley winery. Unless the U.S. Supreme Court rules against patchwork economic protectionism...
Consider the Floridian who fell in love with a certain merlot on a visit to a Yakima Valley winery.
Unless the U.S. Supreme Court rules against patchwork economic protectionism, that Florida resident will be able to savor only the memory, not the wine.
The high court is considering New York and Michigan cases brought by plaintiffs that include wine consumers and wineries precluded from doing business with each other. One is a California vintner who couldn’t send a sample of his pinot to Michigan wine critics.
The states are among 24 that ban direct shipments from wineries to consumers.
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Lawyers argued this week the states could ban the shipments under the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment repealed national prohibition in 1933 but gave states the right to regulate alcohol, including the right to continue the outright ban.
At issue is whether the 21st Amendment trumps another section of the Constitution that assures the federal government broad powers to regulate interstate commerce.
Among the states’ arguments for the bans are that minor children might sneak an order behind their parents’ backs. The argument might have some traction if the states banned direct wine shipments to consumers from wineries within their states. But neither New York, with its own burgeoning wine industry, nor Michigan does.
States that permit shipments acknowledge the probability of children ordering a high-priced wine is unlikely. And wineries use shippers that deliver only to an adult with a verified age of at least 21 years.
Out-of-state wineries can sell their wine in New York or Michigan, but only if they have their own office in the state or a state-based distributor. The distributors have been a powerful force against eliminating the bans in those states and others.
That’s fine for a large-production winery but implausible for smaller-scale operations, which can’t afford to set up such arrangements in several states.
These bans clearly discriminate against out-of-state wineries and hurt consumers’ choices. The Supreme Court should strike them down.