Bill McAllister's article about illegal interstate alcohol shipments was in error when it stated that "the alleged villain is the Internet" ["Hiccup in the 21st Amendment," Federal Page, May 29]. Sen. Orrin Hatch's legislation to make it easier for states to stop the growing black market in alcohol, the 21st Amendment Enforcement Act (S. 577), neither mentions the Internet nor mandates a state's legal stance on the issue. It does ensure that if a state's laws on alcohol distribution are violated, states have a way to enforce the law. S. 577 allows states to file injunctions in federal courts to stop out-of-state shippers who break those laws.
Small wineries claim that they have to break the law because wholesalers will not carry their products. That is false. Members of the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America have offered to carry the products of any winery, but some of these wineries have not taken them up on it. Why? Because they prefer the higher profit margins they pocket when they ship illegally in the current legal climate, in which they are unlikely to be prosecuted.
This is an old story; it's called bootlegging. Bootlegging has always been profitable, but it happens to be illegal. And bootlegging is no longer just mountain stills -- now it is conducted through the mail, the phone, the fax or the Internet -- but it's still bootlegging.
The wine and spirits wholesalers support Internet commerce. Our association is working with WineShopper.com, a new online wine marketer, to use the Internet to bring more choice and more convenience to wine consumers nationwide. WineShopper.com will work within existing state regulatory systems to ship any wine legally to consumers, with strong safeguards against underage access. The Internet is a powerful new marketing tool, but online sales must obey the law the same as any other business.
JUANITA D. DUGGAN
Executive Vice President and CEO
Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America Inc.