On June 30th, the Massachusetts House and Senate both approved the budget conference report that includes Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) shipping language. The budget is now on the Governor’s desk, and he will have 10 days to sign it into law. This action will bring to a close years of effort to reconcile the state’s DTC shipping statutes with the court ruling in FWC v. Jenkins which had declared the capacity cap provision of the previous DTC shipping law to be unconstitutional. Special thanks to Wine Institute’s Northeastern Counsel Carol Martel, Wine Institute’s local lobbyist Bob Rodophele, and Jeremy Benson and the team at FreeTheGrapes for their excellent work. Wine Institute’s success was aided by the personal engagement of Drew Bledsoe, former New England Patriots quarterback and now owner of Doubleback winery in Washington state, who urged MA lawmakers to end the ban on direct shipments. Support was also received from State Representative John Scibak who shepherded the DTC issue through the budget process.
Under the new provisions of the bill, a winery holding a federal basic permit may obtain a DTC shipping permit for an initial fee of $300, with subsequent renewals costing $150 annually. DTC licensees may ship up to 12 cases of wine annually to each adult resident of MA. Annual reporting is required, as is payment of all applicable taxes. When signed, the new statute will become effective on January 1, 2015.