Liberalizing State Laws

Alcohol, lottery and marijuana bills advancing through the Legislature

Republicans in the Legislature are working hard to promote legalized use of marijuana, proliferation of the sale of alcohol and expansion of gambling by state citizens.

At least five bills with these goals in mind have been passed or could soon be approved by lawmakers and signed by the governor.

Gov. Mary Fallin has signed House Bill 1559, which redefines the state definition of marijuana and makes sure that no federally approved cannabidiol drug or substance will considered “marijuana” under state law definitions.

Critics say the new law could be the first step toward legalization of possession of marijuana. Law enforcement officials say that marijuana is a “gateway” drug to addiction to other illegal drugs.

That bill was authored by Sen. Ervin Yen, R-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Jon Echols, R-Norman.

State Rep. Glen Mulready, R-Tulsa, and Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, have at least three bills designed to expand alcohol sales in Oklahoma.

Senate Bill 174 would let the spouse of a retail liquor license holder also have a license to sell more alcohol. That spouse could have a separate interest in up to two more liquor stores.

Under Senate Bill 211, so-called dry counties could have a vote to approve liquor by the drink. In November, voters approved the sale of hard beer and wine in convenience stores, drug stores and groceries. This law would let the liquor stores be open on Sundays.

Senate Bill 411 expands the hours during which alcohol can be sold and adds to the legal actions of local brewers. Instead of opening at 10 a.m., liquor stores would be able to open at 8 a.m. It lets brewers serve free samples of beer to customers and to sell beer at trade shows and festivals. It does limit the beer samples to no more than 12 hours per day.

SB411, SB211 and SB174 have all easily passed the House and Senate.

House Bill 1837 is designed to increase gambling in the state. It is authored by Sen. Kim David, R-Wagoner, and Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Oklahoma City.

When the state lottery was approved, Gov. Brad Henry promised it would produce $300,000,000.00 a year for public education but only a fraction of that amount has come in. This bill would eliminate the law that requires that 35 percent of the lottery profits go to public education. Lottery officials argue that if they are not tied into that percentage, they can offer bigger payouts which will cause more Oklahomans to gamble more and buy more tickets.

HB1837 has passed the House and is headed to the Senate.