Latest Effort to Reform Maryland Beer Laws Ends With a Whimper

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Maryland has been ground zero for a heavily contested battle over beer laws, pitting craft brewers against distributors and other vested interests in the state. Last year, in the wake of the controversial "beer bill" (HB 1283), a task force was convened to study the state's beer laws and suggest changes. The task force, which was spearheaded by Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, unveiled a sweeping legislative package earlier this year that would have significantly liberalized Maryland's beer laws. Alas, according to the Baltimore Sun, the task force's proposed legislation has been killed in committee:

The hopes of Maryland’s craft brewers for sweeping changes to the state’s beer laws flattened Friday like an open beer left out too long as a legislative committee rejected Comptroller Peter Franchot’s “Reform on Tap” initiative.

Unhappy with Franchot’s bold venture into policymaking, a House committee voted 17-4 against a bill the Democratic comptroller had been pushing for months as the best way to fix what he viewed as flawed beer regulations approved last year by the General Assembly.

The panel then compounded the repudiation by passing a measure seeking to examine whether the comptroller’s office should retain its role as the state’s alcohol regulator.

Franchot’s proposal sought to lift various restrictions on Maryland’s brewers, including curbs on the amount of beer they can make and sell directly to the public. While the limits rankled the state’s burgeoning craft brewing industry, other sectors of the alcoholic beverage industry defended the regulations.

Franchot issued a statement calling the rejection of Reform on Tap “more business as usual in Annapolis.”

“The corporate beer lobbyists did their job and got their money’s worth,” he said. “Our independent craft brewers ... have once again received the message that our state’s leaders are fundamentally hostile to their line of work.”

Read more here.