Lawmaker Introduces Bill Banning Sale of Russian Products in Mass.

Rep. Patrick Kearney, D-Scituate, filed legislation that would block the purchase of Russian-made products in Massachusetts following Russia's invasion of Ukraine

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A new bill has been filed that would block the purchase of Russian-made products in Massachusetts.

The legislation, filed on Friday by State Rep. Patrick Kearney, D-Scituate, targets popular imports like liquor and oil.

"What we're trying to do here is build local support throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the people in the Ukraine," Kearney told NBC10 Boston Monday.

"We're not trying to hurt small businesses in Massachusetts, but we are trying to make sure that we're not supporting an economy of an authoritarian dictator," he said.

Kearney added that the bill would signal to people around the world that Massachusetts doesn't support anyone who is attacking democracy.

When asked if the moved was more symbolic than economic, he said he still believed it would have financial implications.

"Any time that the United States is spending money that is not supportive of democracy, that is violating international law, that is killing and arresting its own citizens, that's being led by an authoritarian dictator, it's not symbolic," he said.

Not everyone, however, is on board with the boycott, with some questioning its effectiveness.

Executive Director of the Massachusetts Package Stores Association, Robert Mellion, said in a statement Monday that many Russian vodkas are now distilled in other countries, including in the U.S. He also questioned enforcement issues.

"Another problem is with organizing an effective ban in Massachusetts, because it deals with industry logistics," said Mellion. "Over half of the stores in Massachusetts are owned by large corporate interests based outside of the state. Examples include Total Wine, Target, Costco, Walmart, Trader Joe's and many others. Therefore, there could be federal Commerce Clause implications to a state ban."

Mellion argued that action should come from purchasing power of Massachusetts residents.

"The best way for people to make a political statement about the illegal invasion by Russia of independent Ukraine is by not buying any products produced in Russia," he said. "We do not need state action for this to work."

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced Saturday that Russian-made and branded spirits would be removed from liquor stores.

On Monday, Gov. Janet Mills of Maine also called on the State Liquor and Lottery Commission to exercise its authority to delist all Russian-made spirits as soon as possible.

Maine and New Hampshire directly control the sale of spirits. Mellion noted that this is different from how Massachusetts operates.

"The point is that in all of these cases [where governors have announced boycotts] the state is the sole retailer," Mellion said in a statement. "Therefore, it is a political decision only impacting state run stores. No independent family businesses are taking a hit by implementing any of these boycotts."

He also pointed to logistical issues with enforcing a boycott in Massachusetts.

"Frankly, I do not know how the [Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission] or other state authorities will be able to enforce against the consumption of a drink made with Russian spirits in a restaurant," Mellion said. "Also, who will get cited and what will be the punishment? Is a store going lose its license for selling Russian beer? There are potentially a whole bunch of 14th Amendment issues associated with any ban."

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