Pa. lawmaker wants to decriminalize out-of-state booze buys

The big blue border signs greet visitors warmly, “Pennsylvania Welcomes You.”

But it’s not so friendly if you happen to have booze purchased in another state.

Mountain Liquors is just off Route 15 in Maryland, 150 yards from the state line.

A clerk there told me 70-percent of its business comes from Pennsylvania, making them all Keystone criminals.

“We shouldn’t be calling them criminals,” state Rep. Dan Moul (R-Adams) said. “They aren’t doing anything you and I wouldn’t do. I can assure you that if I lived right there, I probably would be one of those criminals.”

Moul represents Adams County which is home to one – yes, just one – liquor store. But for residents, there’s lots of convenient competition just across the Maryland line.

“I don’t blame them one bit,” Moul said. “It’s close. It’s right there and prices are competitive, so why wouldn’t they? It’s just that technically they’re breaking the law.”

But not for much longer if Rep. John Taylor (R-Philadelphia) has his way. He sent out a co-sponsorship memo Tuesday seeking support for a bill that would let consumers buy booze wherever they want.

“I don’t want to subject my constituents to criminal prosecution because they have a couple bottles of wine they bought in another state,” Taylor said.

Taylor concedes that full liquor privatization that historically passed the House 18 months ago is not likely to get past the Senate. This is an attempt to update an especially annoying provision of the state’s liquor code.

Outside Adams County’s only liquor store in a Gettysburg strip mall, Bill Czincilla was legal with his purchase Wednesday, but he admits to previously purchasing alcohol in Maryland – which makes him a lawbreaker.

“I don’t understand the whole thing about the government being involved in the liquor stores where Maryland is not, they’re privately owned which I don’t have a problem with,” Czincilla said. “I don’t know why they’re not like that here.”

By law, you can buy a bottle of wine or booze outside Pennsylvania and take it, as a gift, into the state – if you fill out the proper paperwork and if you pay the proper taxes.

“Isn’t that insane? Isn’t that insane?” Moul asked twice for emphasis. “You have to get the LCB’s permission to give somebody a bottle of wine that you might have bought while you’re on vacation.”

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and the Pennsylvania State Police, which enforces liquor laws in the state, refused to comment for this story.

It should be noted that when Pennsylvanians purchase alcohol outside the state it effects the Commonwealth’s bottom line since taxes and profit are sent to the General Fund.

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