One Weird Trick Might Enable Direct Shipment of Wine to Massachusetts

Friday, May 2, 2014

Massachusetts shenanigans headquarters:
Scene of the crime
In Massachusetts, we've been waiting for years for the direct shipment of wine to become a reality. It's been a roller coaster. Every couple years a new bill would be introduced only to linger in committee and never see the light of day.

But seemingly out of nowhere hopeful news has arrived. Rather than relying on one of several bills to make it out of committee, legislators used "one weird trick" to bring the issue forward. They included an amendment to this year's budget that would enable the direct shipment of wine. Brilliant! See this story for more information.

The Passionate Foodie does a great job breaking down the high points of the amendment.

There are two revisions of the wine-specific amendment:
If we look back at this post from Ship Compliant there are three key issues that need to be resolved to enable the direct shipment of wine to Massachusetts:
  1. How shipments should legally occur
    The fees, the administration, taxation - that kind of stuff. That's adequately addressed in both the original and revised versions of the bills. In fact, there are some improvements to key issues in the revised version: The original version of the amendment required wineries to be bonded specifically for shipping to Massachusetts and also required monthly reporting of shipments. Both are rather onerous and were changed in the revised amendment. No bond is required and reporting will be annual.
  2. Per-consumer limits on how much wine could be shipped
    That's addressed as well. Rather than saying any one person can receive a certain amount of wine each year, each winery is limited to how much 
  3. FedEx/UPS permitting requirements
    Currently Massachusetts law requires that each and every truck a parcel delivery service uses to transport wine has a permit. With thousands of trucks in operation it would be costly for FedEx/UPS to obtain permits for each and every truck. Most states offer a fleet-wide permit. The original amendment had a provision for fleet-wide permitting. Unfortunately the revised bill struck that wording. It's unclear what percentage of FedEx/UPS trucks are currently licensed to transport wine (for in-state shipments from wineries and retailers that already occur) and whether the upside associated with broader allowance of legal shipment would encourage them to pony up and pay for per-truck permits.
So other than the FedEx/UPS permitting sticking point the amendment looks good to me. And I love the idea of attaching this to the state budget.

But there's one big thing missing from the amendment. And that's inclusion of out of state retailers. That means we'll only be able to gain access to domestic wines as part of this direct shipment bill since out of state retailers - the only purveyors of imported wines in the US - would still be barred from shipping to Massachusetts. And we all know the best deals come from wine retailers. Tom Wark has covered this subject succinctly and effectively.

Oh and one other thing: Massachusetts retailers still can't ship out of state. Massachusetts is the only state I'm aware of that outlaws this. That needs to be changed.

But we'll take progress where we can get it. File this one under: Developing.

I'd love it if you subscribed to The Wellesley Wine Press to keep up to date on future updates on this.


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