Crain’s reporting and recent editorial on Illinois retailers shipping alcohol out of state missed key facts. It created the false impression that retailers are unfair targets of regulators or wholesalers. In reality, some retailers have long been in conflict with Illinois and other states’ laws and are now asking that the law not be applied to them at all. It also fails to mention that any winery in this country is now permitted, under state laws, to ship direct to consumers in 45 states
The 21st Amendment legalized alcohol sales but gave each state the “primary authority” to regulate alcohol within its borders. This includes exclusive jurisdiction over retailers. Courts have consistently recognized the difference between suppliers (federally licensed and accountable) and retailers (only licensed by the states), and have upheld state prohibitions on shipments by out-of-state retailers. Many retailers have brazenly flouted this authority—now that Illinois is taking steps to enforce the law they are challenging the law itself—rather than change the law. It is time they be held accountable.
Effective state regulation is the key reason that problems of tainted or counterfeit product are nonexistent in the United States. Regulatory enforcement strengthens the industry, promotes a level playing field, and protects consumers; loopholes do not.
Craig Wolf, president and CEO, Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, Washington, D.C.