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Cecil County Liquor-Store Raids May Have Hurt Maryland Booze Sales

November 19, 2012

A flurry of media coverage today – such as this in the Capital Gazette and this in the Washington Post – is highlighting that booze sales in Maryland are off, a trend attributed to a new, higher booze tax in Maryland.

But a small detail in the coverage, used to emphasize the negative impact taxation has had on sales – that distilled-spirits deliveries in Cecil County were down 57 percent in September, compared to Sept. 2011 – suggested there may be another factor involved: an ongoing probe by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security into illegal booze smuggling of Maryland-taxed distilled spirits into New York spawned raids on five liquor stores this past summer in Cecil County, Md., as City Paper reported in September.

The search-warrant affidavit supporting the raids indicates that, in addition to liquor stores that serve as way-stations for mass quantities of booze bound for out-of-state retailers, agents are looking at the role liquor wholesalers may play in the lucrative scheme, which involves enormous amounts of distilled spirits. After this summer’s raids, the booze-smuggling trade presumably took a hiatus, which, along with higher taxes, may help account for Maryland’s laggard booze sales of late.

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