An Abrupt Farewell from MD’s Direct Shipping Advocate

Adam Borden, executive director of Marylanders for Better Beer &
Wine Laws, sent this email today announcing his surprise resignation as
leader of the direct shipping cause. He explained to me in a telephone
interview that his aggressive grass roots tactics had made him “a
lightning rod” for opposition to direct shipping among some key members
of the Maryland Legislature. He decided to step down, he said, so that
they would not oppose the bill just because of resentment toward him.

 

Unfortunately,
this does not bode well for supporters of direct shipping in Maryland.
The bill isn’t dead yet, but already we’re hearing, “Maybe next year… “

MBBWL_Banner

My name is Adam Borden, and I‚€™m a wine drinker. 

I
am also the Executive Director of Marylanders for Better Beer &
Wine Laws, a non-profit advocacy group trying to legalize wine shipping
in our state. Friday, I spoke for the last time in that capacity. I am
hereby announcing my resignation as Executive Director effective
immediately.

When I first took over Marylanders for Better Beer
& Wine Laws 15 months ago, I always knew consumers wanted wine
shipping. What I neither knew then nor could have imagined was just how
substantial our group would become. During my tenure, MBBWL has
increased its membership from 1,500 members to over 20,000. Our elected
officials have been inundated with calls, emails and faxes pleading with
them to finally make this a reality. Not just fine wine drinkers are
upset that wine cannot be delivered. I received an email last week from
someone who is angry that he can‚€™t send a bottle of wine as a gift to
someone ‚€¶ and he doesn‚€™t even drink. Period.
   
Wine
shipping is not just a consumer issue. Our supporters are also county
governments, chambers of commerce, economic development agencies,
wineries, retailers, gift basket makers, entrepreneurs, farmers, grape
growers ‚€¶ the list goes on and on. The only people not on this list
are the liquor wholesalers, who refuse to this day to meet with us. They
do not want wine shipping because it would amount to 1% of the wine
sold in the state ‚€¶ and these are wines they don‚€™t even carry.

Sure,
they espouse arguments that seem legitimate like worrying about the
kids, the difficulty the state might have in collecting taxes or the
detrimental impact on local liquor stores. These arguments like all
their others are smokescreens. They are cover for the plain business
interest driving their motivation. They will stop at nothing to maintain
their stranglehold on Maryland‚€™s liquor supply and fear that wine
shipping is the proverbial ‚€œcamel‚€™s nose under the tent‚€ that
would loosen their profitable franchise.

Who are these ‚€œbarons
of booze‚€ to quote the Washington Post? The two main distributors in
this state are estimated to supply 70-80% of the total liquor and wine
in Maryland. It is a duopoly. These companies are enormous, operating in
multi-state jurisdictions and grossing hundreds of millions of dollars
in revenue. It is estimated that they and their friends have contributed
to the campaigns of over 80% of the Maryland General Assembly. 

Many
in leadership have said that 2010 is NOT the year to debate wine
shipping. Why not, I ask you? Because our leaders fear angering what is
arguably the most generous political patron in the state at a time that
every incumbent Delegate and Senator desperately needs campaign funds.

But
all of this is not news to any of you. If the wine shipping debate
truly rested on its merits alone, our elected leaders would have passed
it long ago. Instead, the bill has been hijacked by the liquor lobby.
Friday, we announced that we came to a critical common understanding
with our opponents on this issue. We can finally agree on one thing:
they want this bill killed more than anything else. They will stop at
nothing to see it defeated rather than work on a meaningful compromise.
No matter the thousands of constituent letters and telephone calls, no
matter the prominent levels of support throughout the state, no matter
the logic of our arguments, our elected leaders are hard-pressed to
challenge the liquor lobby.

I am still an optimist. I have not
given up hope. There are so many good people in the General Assembly who
want this to pass that I still continue to believe that 2010 can be our
year. Direct shipping will not create world peace. It will not solve
our budget crisis (though it will indeed help). Nonetheless, direct
shipping will do so much good for so many people all over Maryland that I
know its day is just around the corner.

In the course of growing
and building Marylanders for Better Beer & Wine Laws, I have
pursued a grass-roots approach. Rather than play an inside game, we have
gone directly to voters around Maryland to inspire them to take action.
We‚€™ve always played by the law but not always by the rules of
Annapolis. As a result, my advocacy for this issue has sometimes rubbed
politicians the wrong way. My own state senator from the 43rd District,
Joan Carter Conway, is probably the most notable example; however there
are others.

Because I care so much about this effort and about
seeing Maryland enter the 20th century, let alone the 21st, I announce
my resignation today. I hope my stepping down will in some small way
advance the cause, allowing others to pick up from where I leave off. I
would hate for my involvement in this legislation to be the reason for
its demise one more year. Paul Hoffstein, a dear friend and fellow wine
lover, will be taking over as interim director until someone more
permanent can fill the position. 

I want to be clear,
though, that my resignation is in no way a concession of defeat. Nor
does it mean that I will stop advocating for direct wine shipping, which
I believe in wholeheartedly and have dedicated more time to than I can
possible quantify over the last year and a half. I have taken no money
from the organization and stand to gain nothing from the passage of this
legislation. 

I stand before you to deliver this message,
‚€œWith my resignation today, there is NO reason that I know of, with
the exception of the all powerful influence of Maryland‚€™s liquor
lobby, that this year‚€™s direct wine shipping bill should not become
law.‚€
 
If I have any regret about what has happened, it is
only that I have not been able to share this news with any of our
thousands of supporters before now. I want to thank each and every one
of them for their continued dedication, especially those here today to
testify on behalf of the house bill in Economic Matters this afternoon.

I
am not yet a cynic and pray that our elected leaders will prove me
wrong. With so much support and so many legislators behind this year‚€™s
bill, I continue to believe that 2010 will be our vintage. Thank you.

Tastefully yours,

Adam Borden
Former Executive Director
Marylanders for Better Beer & Wine Laws
4315 Underwood Road
Baltimore, MD 21218
Tel: (443) 570-8102

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This entry was posted in Current Affairs, Direct Shipping, Eastern US, Local Wine, Maryland, Washington Post, Wine and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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