Sampling Wisconsin now legal

If you're wandering through the aisles of a grocery store in Wisconsin, you might be offered more than fish sticks or cupcakes at a sampling stand.

State lawmakers have included in the budget a provision that allows liquor and grocery stores to hand out free samples of liquor.

Each customer could have up to three samples of a half-ounce or less, or about 1 1/2 shots, between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.

The change wasn't widely expected although the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) pushed for the change after legislators previously allowed samples of beer and wine at stores. Extending the privilege to liquor was included in a 581-page summary of the budget that both houses approved.

There still is a possibility the change could be vetoed by Gov. Jim Doyle, who already is being pressured by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) whose executive state director, Kari Kinnard, called on Doyle to veto the provision on the grounds it would encourage drinking and driving.

She told the Associated Press she didn't believe 1.5 ounces of liquor would be enough to put drivers over the legal limit but "We are sending the message that it's OK to drink and then get behind the wheel of your car."

Patrick Essie, a Wisconsin lobbyist for the spirits council, called the samples "a natural progression." He noted that 22 other states have similar laws and DISCUS is not aware of problems involving the samples elsewhere. He said 1.5 ounces of liquor is about the same amount of alcohol in the wine samples.

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