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Wine whines: Profits are better than taxes

EDITORIAL
May 14. 2018 8:09PM




New Hampshire does not have a free market for alcohol sales.

That is intentional. Since the end of Prohibition, the Legislature has maintained a system that is designed to not only regulate distribution of alcoholic beverages, but also to maximize revenues for the state.

Today, Tom Wark of the National Association of Wine Retailers writes to complain of the New Hampshire Liquor Commission’s “gangster tactics” in limiting direct shipment from out-of-state wine clubs to New Hampshire residents.

The Legislature has given the Liquor Commission explicit authority to limit alcohol distribution that could reduce state revenues. Milton Friedman would not be pleased. And perhaps, in a vacuum, neither would we.

Liquor Commission profits are an important component of the New Hampshire budget, and help make it possible for the state to avoid the pitfalls of a broad-based tax.

Hard alcohol is limited to New Hampshire State Liquor Stores. Beer and wines can be sold privately, but every case has to pass through state regulators. Direct wine shipments would avoid that step, and limiting them is consistent with the law.

Perhaps the Legislature can find a compromise that allows direct wine shipments, which had been a tiny slice of the market. We would urge Wark to get a firmer grip on New Hampshire law before comparing New Hampshire officials to Al Capone.


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