- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Marylanders who enjoy the occasional adult beverage will get some good news and some bad news Friday when new state laws take effect.

Residents will be allowed to receive home wine shipments but will have to pay slightly more on virtually all alcohol purchases, thanks to a 3-percentage-point increase in the state sales tax on booze.

The two measures are among scores passed in this year’s General Assembly session that will go on the books Friday.

The long-awaited direct wine shipping law will allow residents to order their favorite wines from licensed vintners inside and outside the state - but not from retailers or wine-of-the-month clubs.

Retailers were omitted as a compromise with the state’s alcohol industry, which has resisted direct alcohol shipment of any kind, arguing that it would allow providers to circumvent the state’s three-tiered system of distributors, wholesalers and retailers.

Maryland is the 38th state to permit home wine deliveries but still prohibits shipments of beer and liquor. Virginia and the District allow shipments of all alcohol.

“It’s a big step in the right direction,” said Delegate Jolene Ivey, Prince George’s Democrat and lead sponsor on the House version of the bill. “I wish it did more, but it’s a good start and we’ll see how it works.”

The law bars residents from receiving more than 18 cases of wine from a single winery in a year, but does not limit the number of wineries from which they can order.

Participating wineries will have to pay $200 a year for shipping permits, while private package delivery companies such as UPS and FedEx will have to pay $100 a year for permits to deliver the wine.

State officials expect to sell about 300 permits and collect $60,200 in additional revenue in the law’s first year, with annual revenues increasing to more than $180,000 by 2016.

A spokeswoman for Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot said that as of last week the state had received applications from 13 wineries, eight of which were in Maryland. Some will have the go-ahead to begin accepting orders Friday.

Participating wineries will have to charge a 9 percent sales tax on the wine, in accordance with the state’s new rate on virtually all alcohol purchases.

The General Assembly enacted a law this session raising the sales tax on alcohol from 6 percent to 9 percent, in an effort to generate more than $80 million in additional revenue for schools and programs for the disabled.

The new rate takes effect Friday and applies to all beverages that contain at least 0.5 percent alcohol by volume.

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