OKLAHOMA CITY — A group of high-profile wineries and distillers have sued the state, alleging lawmakers are already trying to undo voter-approved liquor modernization reforms.
John Maisch, president of the Institute for Responsible Alcohol Policy, said when voters overwhelmingly approved 2016’s State Question 792, they allowed wineries and suppliers to sell to one wholesaler. Selling to one wholesaler allows manufacturers the ability to provide quality control, handle recalls and conduct inventory management, Maisch said. Wholesalers provide the product to retailers.
Senate Bill 608, which was recently signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt, would require the Top 25 brands to sell to every wholesaler in the state, he said.
“The Legislature cannot unilaterally change the state Constitution,” he said.
Maisch’s organization is one of 14 plaintiffs who sued. Other well-known plaintiffs include Sutter Home Winery, Diageo Americas, which manufactures Smirnoff, Captain Morgan and Guinness brands, and Bacardi U.S.A.
The plaintiffs argue that the new law would harm businesses across the state after investing considerable assets to prepare for alcohol modernization. If the law takes effect Aug. 21, it would force wineries and distillers back to the old system, he said.
The group is suing the state, the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission and Gov. Stitt. It wants the state Supreme Court to declare the law unconstitutional and block it.
A spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office said officials were reviewing the lawsuit Tuesday afternoon.
Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at email@example.com.