Federal Court Rejects Challenge to Oklahoma Constitutional Amendment on Alcohol

Federal Judge Robin Cauthron today dismissed a challenge to the recently passed amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution relating to alcohol sales. Last year the voters in Oklahoma voted for historic changes to alcohol laws in the state with 65.6% in favor of the proposed changes. The plaintiffs, the Oklahoma Retail Association, had a competing initiative that did not garner enough support to be on the ballot.

The plaintiffs challenged the law which does not take effect until October 1, 2018.  They sought an injunction against the new constitutional changes (28A) and a declaration that the changes violate the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.  The plaintiffs allege that certain provisions of 28A treated retailers unfairly especially on the new rules for who can sell spirits, wine and beer.  In her opinion Judge Cauthron rejected the plaintiffs efforts to treat all alcohol the same noting “As a matter of general knowledge, beer and wine are materially different products than spirits due to their social uses and alcohol content.”

Judge Cauthron further upheld the challenged law under the rational basis test noting that these issues are properly before the legislature and also rejected the standing of the plaintiff retailers to challenge parts of the new constitution that deal with wholesalers and manufacturers. She also noted that some of the issues the plaintiffs challenged were contained in the plaintiff’s proposed constitutional amendment. Accordingly, she noted plaintiffs had not met their burden of proof and granted the state’s motion for summary judgement.

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