A bill that could allow Oklahomans to decide whether regular strength beer and wine should be sold in convenience stores and supermarkets passed another hurdle, but only after some spirited debate.
“Do we not have enough alcoholics in this state?” Representative Bobby Cleveland (R) District 20 asked lawmakers.
Representatives spent well over an hour debating whether Oklahomans should have a chance to vote on whether full strength beer and wine could be sold in convenience stores and supermarkets. State Representative Todd Russ (R) District 45 even said Blacks and Native American Indians already have problems with alcohol, so they should be against the bill.
“I have got to wonder what rock you’ve been under. The white man, the white man took advantage and just took advantage of the Native American people for hundreds of years at the rim of an alcohol bottle,” Russ said, “They cannot process that like other people and yet we want to put that, more of that out for them to just be taken advantage of.”
In the end the bill passed. Supporters say it won't lead to increased alcoholism, regardless of race.
4/21/16 Related Story: House Passes Measure To Change Alcohol Laws
“We don’t see this as increasing access at all” said Tyler Moore with Oklahomans for Consumer Freedom, “It’s simply giving more modern convenience and options to responsible adults.”
Opponents fear it could hurt smaller liquor stores; and changes in the distribution system could lead to higher costs.
“Pricing will go up. Selection will go down. You’ll see the amount of wholesalers will diminish. Therefore competition is gone and the price will be pushed on to the consumer,” said Byron’s Liquor Warehouse manager Blake Cody.
Still, customers News 9 spoke with say they back the measure for convenience sake, and doubt it will hurt liquor stores.
“No, I really don’t,” said customer Donna Jackson. “I live in mustang so I will come here when I am in the vicinity because I like the prices they have.”
The bill now goes to a conference committee. If there are any changes it will return to the House and Senate before going to a vote of the people in November.