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Alcohol A Big Issue In Maryland Legislature This Year

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One Maryland delegate says "arcane" liquor laws help prevent Montgomery County from becoming a nightlife hub.
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One Maryland delegate says "arcane" liquor laws help prevent Montgomery County from becoming a nightlife hub.

The licensing and regulation of alcohol in the state takes up a lot of the work the Maryland General Assembly does in its yearly session. That much becomes clear when looking at some of the new laws that were passed by legislators before they adjourned for the year this week.

A report released earlier this year looked at nightlife in Maryland's most populous county, and the results did not paint a pretty picture. Residents of all ages in Montgomery County complained there were not enough nighttime and entertainment options, which the report noted may be the chief reason the county has the lowest percentage of people ages 20 to 34 of any jurisdiction in the D.C. region.

Delegate Sam Arora says it will take a lot to change that. But he successfully pushed to allow for more microbreweries in Montgomery County.

"I have to tell you, in all my years of policy and as an attorney, I have not found laws as complex and arcane as [Montgomery County's] liquor laws," Arora says. "One of the reasons I started looking at microbreweries was I'm a Montgomery County native. I grew up there. And I'm one of the younger delegates. I look around, there are not the kind of entertainment options I would want to see as compared to Washington, D.C."

Arora adds this is just a very small part. "I don't think all the focus on entertainment is just alcohol. But it's a lot of fun. You go to a new brewery with some friends, try a new craft brew in your local area, I think it's cool and fun," he says. "The same way five to 10 years ago wineries became very popular."

But what the General Assembly giveth it can also taketh away. If you do drink liquor in Maryland, you will imbibe it in liquid form, as lawmakers outlawed so-called "vaportinis" and other drinks that can be consumed by inhaling them. And when you buy that liquid liquor, you won't be able to get 190-proof alcohol much longer as it will be banned starting July 1. Lawmakers targeted grain alcohol sold by the brand Everclear that is popular with college students.

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