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Aug 21, 2014

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Internet alcohol sales bans challenged

Wine enthusiasts push for right to buy from out-of-state sources

Jan 13, 2000 - Wine enthusiasts and three states are suing to overturn state laws that prohibit adults from buying wine from out-of-state sources. Another in Kentucky launched a grass roots effort to get legislators to rescind a similar law.

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Those who buy beer through the mail or over the Internet would also be affected if the laws are changed.

Six Florida residents have filed a civil-rights complaint that Florida is violating their constitutional right to engage in interstate commerce by preventing them from ordering fine and rare wines that are not available from in-state retailers.

In a recent case based on a similar argument, a federal judge ruled in favor of Indiana consumers. He said that their state's ban on interstate direct shipments of alcoholic beverages is unconstitutional. The Indiana attorney general's office is appealing the decision. Similar cases are pending in Texas and Virginia.

Florida currently bans out-of-state wineries and retailers from shipping alcoholic beverages directly to residents' homes. It is also illegal for package carriers to make such deliveries. However, licensed in-state vendors can deliver alcoholic beverages to Florida homes. The suit argues that this discrepancy in the regulations "discriminates against interstate sales and delivery and provides a direct economic advantage to in-state businesses."

Lauren Abel, who collects wine, chose to try to change the Kentucky law through legislation rather than a lawsuit. That law also prevents residents from ordering wine from out-of-state sources and having it shipped directly to their homes. She is circulating petitions in an effort to get the law overturned.

"This is a violation of the Constitution," Abel said. "If we are a free country, a true democracy, why are you legislating my personal rights away? Who are you to tell me what I can and cannot buy? It goes deeper than the fact that I can't pursue my hobby. It goes to the heart of what being a U.S. citizen is about."


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