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Arizona Loosens Wine and Beer Laws

For many years, Arizona liquor had a three-tiered legal system for liquor distribution. Producers sold to distributors who sold to retailers who then sold to the public. Over time, this long used system has expanded, giving wineries and microbreweries more freedom to ship products directly to the consumer.

The first real push to loosen the laws came from a local doctor who wanted to buy Screaming Eagle, an expensive Napa Valley wine. However, at that time, Arizona’s three-tiered system made it difficult for the Valley doctor to purchase the wine. With the help of Barbara Leff, a retired State Senator, the three-tiered system was challenged.

In 2002, Leff was instrumental in passing legislation that allowed consumers to ship home one case of wine per year from an out of state winery if the consumer purchased the wine at the winery. The next year, Leff modified the shipping laws again to accommodate Arizona’s growing wine industry. Over time, it was no longer the consumers ensuring passage of new laws, but the wineries themselves. The need to ship products led to a 2005 Supreme Court ruling, allowing in state wineries to be treated no differently than out of state wineries. The new ruling ensured that both in state and out of state small wineries could ship directly to consumers. Arizona’s new law has made it easier for alcoholic beverage companies to ship their products to their out of state consumer base.