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Coakley Appeal Denied: Large Wineries Should Be Able to Ship to Massachusetts

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A few months ago, I was lamenting the fact that Attorney General Martha Coakley was appealing a court ruling that would open up shipment of wine from out of state for wineries that produce more then 30,000 gallons annually.  These wineries, which some estimate represent 98% of all wines sold, are currently unable to ship wine to Massachusetts.

Fortunately, a court decision came down that would lift that restriction and allow out of state wineries of all sizes to ship to the state.  Unfortunately, Martha Coakley appealed that decision and things were held up in court for a few months.  Fortunately, that appeal has been denied and it appears as if this law could become a reality and out of state wineries of all sizes could legally ship to Massachusetts.

From FamilyWinemakers.org:

"Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit sustained the district court's ruling in Family Winemakers of California v. Jenkins.  The ruling by the three-judge panel of Lynch, Stahl and DiClerico means that Massachusetts' discriminatory production cap law that prevents wineries production more than 30,000 gallons from directly shipping to Bay State residents is unconstitutional."

Here's a link to the full ruling.

What does this mean?  Where do we go from here?

Well there may be another appeal and this could drag on for a while.  But if this goes through, it means that a couple of additional laws need to be resolved in order for wineries to have confidence they're not breaking the law when shipping to Massachusetts.

See, wineries consult firms like Ship Compliant in order to determine whether it's legal to ship to a state.  Currently, they say "no" it's not safe to ship to Massachusetts.  So do UPS and FedEx.  The additional laws that need to be addressed (per-truck licensing requirements -and- per-consumer volume cap verification) are described in this blog entry from Ship Compliant.

These changes are being worked on!  Read more about proposed legislation in this area that is slated to be heard May 5th, 2010 HERE.

Does this mean I can order from out of state retailers?

No, I don't think it does.  This scuffle has been all about wineries, not retailers.  We'll need further changes in laws to allow out of state retailers to ship to the state.

Want to keep up to date on progress in Massachusetts wine shipping laws?  I'd love it if you subscribed to The Wellesley Wine Press.

In conclusion, this is good progress, but we've got a long ways to go before the grapes have been completely freed.

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