'Net Booze Sellers Face Regulation

A Senate hearing will consider whether states need help enforcing alcohol regulations because of the Internet sales and 800 numbers, reports CBS News Correspondent Bob Fuss..

Witnesses are expected to tell the Senate Judiciary Committee that young people who can't walk into a liquor store and buy alcoholic beverages can get them delivered to their home if they have access to the Internet and a credit card number.

Frequent sales across state lines make it difficult for state officials to enforce their laws.

Maryland State Sen. Marilyn Goldwater is trying to tighten up that enforcement. She asked a state legislative committee Monday to help turn off the Internet booze spigot by making it a felony to sell alcoholic beverages by mail to anyone under age 21.

"Youngsters are very cyber-savvy these days," she said.

"Via the Internet, you can obtain any alcoholic beverages you want," she said. "They don't ask for any verification. It comes in a box that is not marked."

Her bill drew support from students, the state comptroller's office and a national organization set up to battle Internet sales of alcoholic beverages. It was opposed by the wine industry.

It is already illegal in Maryland to sell alcoholic beverages by mail to anyone regardless of age, but the crime is only a misdemeanor.

Charles Ehart, director of the state alcohol and tobacco tax unit, said trying to prosecute out-of-state Internet firms is difficult because local prosecutors are not inclined to try to extradite someone for a misdemeanor.

Wine industry representatives said wineries take care not to sell to minors and shouldn't have to live with the threat of a felony conviction for what could be a simple mistake.

Winemakers also said federal action isn't warranted, reports CBS News Reporter Stephan Kaufman.

Mike Scott, the winemaker at the Catarina Winery in Spokane, Wash., said efficient safeguards are in place for Internet sales. Scott said his winery telephones the buyer to verify legal age and requires an adult signature to verify delivery.

Scott says he and many others are doing what's right.

"My only hope is that Â… reasonable minds will prevail," he says.

A $20 bottle of wine automatically means most minors aren't buyers, he says.