CUMBERLAND — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said Monday that online entities selling spirits must start enforcing state laws regarding alcohol sales.
Morrisey, in a visit to the offices of the Cumberland Times-News, summed up action taken last week regarding a request of compliance with state laws for alcohol sales via the internet. Morrisey has joined with counterparts across the U.S., including in Maryland and Pennsylvania, in an effort to enforce state liquor laws online.
“We partnered with 46 attorneys general and wrote a letter to Facebook, eBay and Craigslist asking these entities to focus on compliance,” said Morrisey. “We want to ensure that the entities that are promoting these products online are going to be complying with West Virginia law, which for instance prohibits many types of alcohol sales.”
The bipartisan coalition is led by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey. The officials are calling on internet companies to take proactive measures against alcohol sales on their platforms, which they say frequently violate state laws and could present health risks.
“You want to ensure that any products that are sold are not fly-by-nights,” said Morrisey, “that they are not going to be subject to contamination, counterfeiting, adulteration. We want these folks to look a little bit more closely at that. There is a lot of advertising dollars being made by these companies and we think they need to put a little bit more time and effort into trying to ensure compliance.”
Morrisey said the platforms also must enforce customer age requirements to prevent “back door” sales to minors.
He said news about drugs being purchased online is often in the news, but the purchase and shipment of alcohol is rarely discussed.
“You don’t hear as much lately about alcohol, but it is still a big issue,” he said. “There are a lot of people still addicted to alcohol. We want to make sure not only that the product is not abused and it’s consumed in a legal manner, but you want to make sure fake product isn’t being shipped. It could be very dangerous.”
Morrisey said online platforms should have the same safeguards and restrictions as brick-and-mortar stores.
“A lot of times the legal products are ones you have to worry about because they are very addictive,” he said.
Landry said in a press release, “we have seen recently with vaping and opioids, adolescents are finding new ways to purchase contraband online. The black-market products sold on these platforms may be counterfeit or tainted, sometimes with harmful health effects. So, together — Republican and Democrat — we want to solve this problem and make our jurisdictions safer places to live, work and raise families. These platforms have a responsibility to implement meaningful systems and programs that proactively address this problem and keep our children safe.”
The attorneys general are asking online companies to remove any illegal postings for the sale of alcohol products. They also ask that the platforms develop and deploy programming to block their users from violating state law by posting content for the sale and distribution of alcohol products on their websites.
The letter to internet companies was signed by attorneys general from Alabama, American Samoa, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Follow staff writer Greg Larry on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.