Posted at 3:45 p.m., March 11, 2015

Wine wins with a compromise,
no change to powdered alcohol

A Wyoming law to increase the limitation of shipment of wine to households will become effective July 1, but a bill to prohibit powdered alcohol died in the final days of the 63rd Legislative session.

House Bill 47, which flew through the third Senate reading on Feb. 17 with flying colors, increased the 18 liters of shippable wine to 36 liters.

The executive director of the Wyoming State Liquor Association, Mike Moser, said the bill was a compromise. The bill originally removed the ceiling completely when brought to the floor during the previous session, and Moser said they didn’t want that for two reasons: They were breaking more to retailers, and the big concern was underage drinking.

“You’d end up getting 10 cases of cheap wine delivered to every frat house in Laramie,” Moser said. The compromise was worked out last session, but the bill ran out of time, so Rep. Hans Hunt, R-Niobrara/Weston/Goshen, brought the bill back for this year’s Legislature. Moser stepped in to keep a watchful eye on the bill and to discourage any changes from being made.

Of the states that allow the shipment of wine, Wyoming’s cap is still somewhat on the lower end. But retailers are also allowed to order wine from other states as well.

“If you find a wine that you picked up in California that you think is great, you order a case and you like it, any retailer in Wyoming can order that case. That’s why we feel we didn’t need to remove the cap,” Moser said.

Using the ruling from the 2005 Granholm Supreme Court case, the last changes made to HB 47 were if a state government allowed the shipment of wine, it had to allow the same shipment in-state that it allowed out of state.

“You can’t say we can do it in the state, but you can’t bring it in. And you can’t say, you can bring it in, but we can’t do it in the state,” Moser explained. This was to allow the same shipment laws for in-state wineries.

Local industry retailers don’t fear losing any business because of this law. Moser said that was the reason for the compromise.

“Admittedly, people are cheating. If I’m your next door neighbor and you max out your 18 liters a year, then you just tell me, ‘Hey, Moser, I ordered some wine, and it’s going to be delivered to your house,’” Moser said. People skirt the law regardless, and 36 liters is only four cases of wine, Moser explained, which is why retailers aren’t too concerned.

Direct shipment of wine “brings in less money.” If you purchase wine from a retailer here, it has excise tax as well as a 17.6 percent markup at the liquor division, which generates $13 million a year, Moser said. With the direct shipment of wine, only a 12 percent fee is placed on the retail price, which includes sales tax.

“That’s only a 6 percent, or so, profit off the retail, as opposed to, if you buy it in-state, where it has that 17.6 percent markup,” Moser said.

Powdered alcohol remains on a tied vote

An additional bill on Moser’s radar was Senate File 106 that pertained to powdered alcohol. The original bill would have prohibited the use, purchase, sale and possession of powdered alcohol in the state of Wyoming. Although it passed the Senate third reading, the bill was gutted before advancing to the House during second reading.

Amendments made included the removal of the word “possession” and replacement of the word “use” with “sale,” ultimately making only the sale of powdered alcohol illegal. The bill passed the House during second reading but lost on third reading with a tied vote of 30-29-1.

But from the industry’s end, it would have been a victory either way, Moser said. If it turns out the industry was just being “over paranoid, no harm no foul,” he explained.

“Unfortunately, if it turns out that we were right, and some bad things happen, overdoses stuff like that, which are being reported in Colorado, because you can order this crap from Europe, well, then we have the bill, and we tried,” Moser said. This is the only time the alcohol industry would stand up and say it does not want to sell something legal.

Moser said the alcohol industry saw the product somewhat directed toward a younger audience. “The original website’s made that pretty clear of the product,” Moser said.

Snorting the product has become one of the main fears, and Moser explained that a Wyoming-affiliated national group is projecting the product can also be put into pill or capsule form.

“If you drink alcohol, you know when you’ve had two drinks. But, on the other hand, if you just slam five or six pills,” the effects take longer, Moser said. Alcohol is processed through the gastrointestinal system, but if a person snorts it, it gets into the mucus membrane, which absorbs directly into the bloodstream, Moser explained.

“It passed the Senate very handily 23-7, but the difficulty was we are a very libertarian state, and there were concerns about why should we ban a legal product. But they thought we were being over paranoid, and I hope we are,” Moser said.

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