The national US association representing wine and spirits distributors has urged the US Supreme Court to protect what it calls "the constitutional right of a state" to regulate the sale and distribution of alcohol and to ban the sale of alcohol online if states so choose.

According to an amicus (friend of the court) brief filed yesterday in the nation's highest court, the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) argued that the Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution "grants states virtually complete control over whether to permit importation or sale of liquor and how to structure the liquor distribution system."

WSWA said that the distributors' brief reinforces the views of a "majority of state attorneys general and two associations of state alcohol regulators whose job it is to enforce the nation's alcohol distribution laws".

In the attorneys general brief being filed with the Court, 32 states and the District of Columbia, who are defending Michigan and New York's alcohol regulatory systems, urge the court to reinforce their long-established right to regulate alcohol sales, a statement said.

"Point. Click. Drink. It should not be that easy for any high school or college student with a credit card to buy beer, wine and liquor -- but it is," WSWA president and CEO Juanita D. Duggan said.

"It's outrageous that the $45 billion dollar wine industry is fighting the majority of state attorneys general, family and school groups, safety groups and responsible alcohol industry groups to gut state laws controlling alcohol sales and distribution."

Those challenging the existing regulatory system allege that many bans are unconstitutional because they apply only to sales by out-of-state wineries, and not to in-state wineries.

"Rather than being forced to deal with all potential liquor sellers nationwide, states have the authority to insist that sales to consumers be made only by those within the full reach of their regulatory and taxing powers," added the distributors.

"It's all about preventing the unregulated, unaccountable and anonymous sale of alcohol," Duggan said. "We agree with the vast majority of states who believe that that deregulating alcohol is a bad idea. In fact, a vast majority of Americans is opposed to Internet alcohol sales because it makes alcohol easier for kids to get. We hope that the Supreme Court will once and for all resolve this issue and reaffirm a state's right under the Constitution to protect its citizens against the powerful wine industry that puts its soaring profits ahead of sound policy."