Our Opinion: Free the grapes


Massachusetts' archaic and unconstitutional law banning out-of-state wineries from shipping directly to customers in the state exists in part because there is no one to carry the ball for a bill to overturn it. For good or ill, celebrity advocates can get things done in the political arena, and in the case of former New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe's lobbying for an end to the ban, his advocacy is definitely for the good.

A four-time Pro Bowler and the well-liked predecessor to Tom Brady, Mr. Bledsoe, who owns a winery in his native state of Washington, was on Beacon Hill Thursday to urge legislators to end the ban on direct sales by wineries that produce more than 30,000 gallons annually. This is one of only 11 states that make out-of-state wineries go through wholesalers and retailers to get their wines to customers. The ban was passed in 2006 and Mr. Bledsoe, backing by a coalition called Free the Grapes!, is making the case for its end.

The Package Store Association supports the ban, which it profits from, as do the few Massachusetts wineries, which claim that direct sales of wines from other states will cost them customers. This has not been the case in other states, as Mr. Bledsoe observed during his visit to Boston. If a local wine pleases the palate it will sell.

Four years ago, a federal judge ruled the Massachusetts' ban was unconstitutional, and an appeals court upheld that ruling. Governor Patrick opposes the ban, but legislative leaders, unwilling to take on the influential package store lobby, refuse to even bring forward a bill overturning the ban. No law as transparently unconstitutional as this one should be on the books, and it is past time to free the grapes.


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