A New High in Liquor Law Lows

OK folks, we all like to play, My state’s booze laws are the stupidest. And truth to tell, competitive as I am on this front, I’ve always admitted that other states give their drinkers plenty of scoring opportunities. But I just read about an Ohio law that walks the bases loaded and serves up a hanging curve over the heart of the plate.
Game over boys, Ohio has the worst alcohol-related law in existence. Here is the whole thing:

No family household shall purchase more than 24 cases of 12 bottles of 750 milliliters of wine in one year.

That’s right, the legislature has determined via it’s infinite wisdom, what would seem to be a reasonable amount for personal use.
Not only that, but Ohio actually tracks purchases of wine by individuals and will punish private citizens for buying too much wine for personal consumption!
Big Brother is Watching You in Ohio.
Got your dander up yet? Then let me dial the outrage meter back from, Send out Paul Revere! to the more normal, Let’s get our government leaders helmets and a short bus.
The real aim of this law is protectionism for Ohio’s wine industry. The sales that are being tracked are direct, i.e. mail order, sales. Ohio used to simply ban most out of state wineries from shipping to its citizens, until a 2005 ruling by the US Supreme Court gently alerted it to several provisions in a little known and currently under-appreciated document called the Constitution that made this prohibition impermissible.
Now Ohio simply requires all direct sale wineries to collect sales tax, pay a fee to the state, and to tell the state who you are and how much wine you buy.
Please note that the Ohio Division of Liquor Control states for the record that they believe that the limit is intended to apply only to direct sales, not to retail. But they have to make such a (non-binding) statement because the law clearly does not delineate such an exception.
Of course, the temptation is think this is really no big deal. How many people actually buy 288 bottles of wine a year, especially via mail-order? And the fine is only $100 if you are caught. And if the state wanted to overreach its overreach by applying the limit to local retail sales, they would have a hard time proving it with current means.
Doug Caruso touches on this in his fine article in the Columbus Dispatch last Sunday:

People who buy most of their wine at a supermarket or wine shop have nothing to fear, said Chris Paparodis, a Columbus lawyer who specializes in liquor regulations.
“No. 1, they don’t know how much you buy from a local retailer,” he said of the state.
“Second, if you’re a nonpermit premises — a residential home — they need a search warrant to come into your premises. I’m not sure they would know to do that if you’re buying three cases of wine a month from the local grocery store.”

Of course, what if the state modified the licensing requirements of wine retailers to track wine sales by credit card or loyalty program, and provide them to the state, just as direct sellers already must? (In the name of fairness, of course.) It would be pretty onerous right now, but in ten years?
Or how about you buy a large wine collection, or build a new home and stock up your new wine cellar? You might have an article written about you, maybe even with pictures. If you piss off the wrong regulator, you are looking at probably cause for that search warrant Paparodis was alluding to above.
And 288 bottles is not really so huge a number as it seems. Maggi and I come close ourselves. If you don’t eat out much, drink wine with dinner, and don’t like stale wine, you will hit 288 without much difficulty. And how about if you have a party or two during the year?
But here’s the real problem, folks—the only one that really matters: Why does the State of Ohio feel it has the need, much less the right, to determine a reasonable amount of wine for personal consumption?

UPDATE: Lest anyone think I’m suggesting only Ohio has laws at this level of stupidity I’ll throw in this tidbit: Washington DC, San Francisco, and New York City have laws controlling how many condoms you may posses!

About the author

Doug

I am 48 years old, married with two young daughters. My interests are tennis, reading, computers, politics, and of course cocktails. I run a murder mystery party business that caters to both corporate and private events, Killing Time, murder consultants.

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