The Thirsty Beagle: Walmart-backed group files for initiative petition on Oklahoma alcohol laws

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Walmart-backed group files for initiative petition on Oklahoma alcohol laws

Oklahomans for Consumer Freedom -- the group that touts itself as Tap Oklahoma on social media and counts the Walmart chain as its biggest backer -- has joined the alcohol reform fray in full force by filing for its own initiative petition.

The language for State Question 786 was filed Wednesday with the Secretary of State. You can see the document here.

We're now up to three different initiative petitions (SQs 783, 785 and 786) and one legislative referendum measure (SJR 68). All we're missing now is for Budweiser, the Oklahoma Restaurant Association and all the disgruntled small liquor distributors to file their own petitions, and we'll really be set.

I'm still digesting the language on the Walmart-backed petition, but at first glance it appears very similar to the language in SJR 68. One obvious difference is that liquor stores would be able to sell any item sold at a grocery store, as long as such sales don't account for more than 10 percent of total sales. SJR 68 would allow up to 20 percent.

Another big difference is the section quoted below, which would prohibit the sale by some license holders of alcoholic beverages combined with caffeine, with one notable exception:

"Beer or malt beverages to which caffeine has been intentionally added as a separate ingredient for the purpose of providing a stimulant effect shall not be bought or sold by any entity holding a license under this Section within the State of Oklahoma. This Section should not be interpreted to prohibit the sale of beer brewed with ingredients used for their flavor profile that contain caffeine as a natural constituent, such as coffee and chocolate."

Other highlights:

-On Anheuser-Busch's distribution: Same as SJR 68
-Yes on cold beer and wine in liquor stores
-Yes on full-strength cold beer and wine in any number of grocery, convenience, drug stores, etc.
-Licenses for on-premise consumption (like in a taproom) are to be decided separately by the Legislature.

I've reached out to Oklahomans for Consumer Freedom to ask if I'm missing anything else that separates their petition from SJR 68. Unless there's a whole section or some fine language that I'm not spotting, it appears the main difference is the measure takes a swipe at liquor stores by cutting down on the amount of non-alcohol items they can sell.

I've also asked why they would file their own initiative petition on the day after (and technically the same day, if you check their Facebook page) publicly supporting the passage of SJR 68 in the Senate.

I will update this blog post if I get responses to those questions.

UPDATE: Oklahomans for Consumer Freedom responded to my questions with this statement:

"Thank you for your inquiry about our initiative petition. We will be distributing a news release tomorrow morning with additional information, including a list of our coalition partners."

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