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Fed Ct Rules Beer/Wine “Materially Different” than Spirits, OK for OK to “Steer Society” to Low ABVs

Opening up Oklahoma’s liquor laws to allow sale of beer over 3.2 ABW and wine in grocery stores prompted lawsuit from liquor retailers.  They claimed new law unconstitutional since they’re treated differently than other licensees.  Those differences, regarding what they can sell, residency requirements and more, violate their Equal Protection rights, retailers claim, since they are “similarly situated” as other licensees in state.  But US Dist Ct tossed their challenge, upheld changes.  Judge ruled that differences between beer/wine and spirits and experience in other states where products regulated differently “make it rational to conclude all alcohol sellers holding licenses in Oklahoma are not similarly situated.”  

Judge’s language distinguishing beer/wine from spirits will be music to ears of beer/wine producers and infuriating to those in spirits biz who support equalization.  For example: state regulators who defended suit/law “demonstrate spirits are associated with binge drinking, a litany of health concerns, crime and increased risk for vehicular accidents when compared to wine and beer.”  Defendants also pointed to 23 states where beer/wine regulated differently than liquor.  Then too, judge wrote: “As a matter of general knowledge, wine and beer are materially different products from spirits due to their social uses and alcohol content.”  That ain’t all.  “Defendants state the broad goals of the Oklahoma legislature are to reduce access to products with high alcohol content and steer society toward lower ABV products.”  That’s both rational, judge ruled, and constitutional.

Publishing Info

  • Year: 2017
  • Volume: 19
  • Issue #: 162
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