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06.2010

Massachusetts Beverage Business

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MASSACHUSETTS WON’T FIGHT COURT’S DECISION

This may be the final chapter in the controversial direct shipping case which has been the source of ongoing lawsuits and court battles. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley will not fight a January federal appeals court decision that lifts restrictions on out-of-state wine shipments directly to consumers. The deliveries now depend on pending state legislation to establish a new regulatory framework for shipments by wineries, including licensing, reporting and tracking requirements. In January, the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2OO8 district court ruling that labeled as unconstitutional the Massachusetts state law governing direct-to-consumer shipments by wineries. The court said the law has a “discriminatory effect” on interstate commerce because it prevents direct shipments of 98 percent of out-of-state wine to Bay Staters while allowing direct deliveries by all Massachusetts wineries. The law stated that only wineries that produce less than 3O,OOO gallons a year and haven’t used a wholesaler for distribution in the last six months can ship directly to local consumers. The Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure in February reported favorably on the bill, which has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. The bill also addresses a state common-carrier law that makes it cost-prohibitive for shipping companies such as FedEx and UPS to deliver wine to homes in Massachusetts because it requires a permit for each individual delivery truck rather than fleet licensing.

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