Michigan Appeals Overturn of Alcohol-Sales Ban to Supreme Court

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Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 30 appealing a lower court's decision that the state's ban on the direct shipment of alcohol to state residents is unconstitutional.


The Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association filed a supporting petition with the Supreme Court yesterday.


The case goes back to 2000 when wine writers Ray and Eleanor Heald of Troy, MI, sued in an effort to allow direct shipments from out-of-state wineries. A federal judge upheld Michigan's ban on direct shipments that year, ruling the state had a right under the 21st Amendment to regulate alcohol.


But the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision last year. The appeals court said Michigan's law is unconstitutional because it violates the Commerce Clause, which gives Congress the power to regulate interstate trade.


In its appeal to the Supreme Court, Michigan argues that the Commerce Clause doesn't apply because Congress delegated the right to control alcohol shipments to the states. It also reasserts its 21st Amendment rights.


Supporters of Michigan's law say it helps prevent Internet sales to teen-agers.


"If the lower court decision stands, it will open the floodgates to unaccountable beer, wine and liquor sales in Michigan -- and the state will have no effective enforcement mechanism to stop those in other states who sell to minors, avoid paying state taxes or refuse to adhere to other state laws," said Michael Lashbrook, president of the beer and wine wholesalers association.


Michigan is one of 23 states that ban direct alcohol shipments, and court opinions have varied widely in similar cases.


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