At the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy faced uncertain times, and policymakers were confronted with the reality that government regulations were smothering businesses. As a result, states temporarily relaxed a host of unnecessarily burdensome laws — particularly related to outdated alcohol regulations — in order to keep companies afloat. Then something curious happened.

Lifting these restrictions didn’t lead to disastrous outcomes. Rather, they were incredibly popular and proved to be a boon for private enterprise. The resounding success of these reforms has subsequently driven lawmakers to turn them into permanent fixtures in many places including Maryland. In fact, the Free State has emerged as a shining example of modernizing archaic alcohol regulations, which could significantly benefit its residents.

Maryland’s alcohol laws received a facelift during the pandemic, but they were initially temporary moves. The change sparked debate, however, and spawned some notable efforts, including legalizing direct-to-consumer alcohol delivery and allowing app-based, third-party delivery services to deliver from liquor stores.

Only recently were these provisional laws made permanent. With the passage of House Bill 808 and Senate Bill 456, the state allowed third-party delivery services to transport alcoholic beverages from liquor stores directly to a consumer’s doorstep in localities that adopt such policies. In addition, Senate Bill 1041 permitted off-premise sales for certain breweries and distilleries and authorized statewide direct-to-consumer delivery by common carriers like United Parcel Service (UPS) or FedEx and employees of distilleries, breweries and wineries. The effects of these bills will be profound for the Free State, especially in light of the ongoing economic obstacles facing businesses.

Small businesses are often at a disadvantage, but these reforms are primed to confer many benefits on them, including increased economic and employment growth. By authorizing these businesses to use third-party delivery platforms, they can amplify their bottom line and expand their market share with revenues increasing between 30% and 50%.

Moreover, direct-to-consumer shipping of alcohol from Maryland’s breweries, distilleries and wineries will help increase employment growth at small- and medium-sized alcohol producers. Reports have found that states that have reformed their laws to permit direct-to-consumer alcohol sales have witnessed around 8% employment growth. Consumer surveys underscore the widespread support for direct-to-consumer sales with overwhelming majorities of craft beer and spirits enthusiasts rallying behind these efforts.

These reforms also help promote accessibility, particularly for individuals with mobility issues or who reside in rural areas with limited access to liquor stores or selection. While economic and accessibility considerations aren’t the only factors, public safety concerns must be considered too.

Thankfully, data shows that alcohol laws can be reformed while still balancing public safety considerations. My organization, the R Street Institute, has done extensive research on alcohol-delivery reforms, including analyzing any potential correlation with various negative externalities, such as drunk driving.

We discovered that there is no correlation between states that reformed their alcohol delivery laws and alcohol-impaired driving fatalities, and found that several states that prohibited alcohol delivery actually had some of the highest increases in drunken driving deaths. Also, states that restricted alcohol delivery experienced larger increases in overall drinking rates, compared to those that permitted delivery. Other evidence suggests that granting third-party delivery platforms the ability to deliver from liquor stores could reduce drunk driving — a view held by four out of five Americans.

Additionally, our research related to underage consumption and alcohol reforms found there isn’t a connection between direct-to-consumer shipping of alcohol and underage drinking. We found that states in which direct-to-consumer wine delivery was legalized between 2003 and 2019 experienced an average decrease of 44% in underage consumption, whereas states that precluded direct-to-consumer wine sales during this period experienced a slightly smaller average decrease in underage drinking of 43%. These trends do not demonstrate causation nor suggest that various forms of alcohol delivery reduce youth drinking, but they do emphasize that direct-to-consumer shipping of alcohol doesn’t correlate with increased underage drinking.

With the permanent adoption of these pandemic-era policies, lawmakers have embraced the lessons learned during COVID-19 and seized the opportunity to enact lasting change. In doing so, Maryland sent a powerful message: In times of crisis, innovation prevails, and progress endures without sacrificing public safety. Let’s raise our collective glasses to a brighter tomorrow, one where consumer choice is paramount, and small and medium-sized businesses flourish.