Did you know that, before Prohibition, Oklahoma was a leading grape producer? The state had 10 times as much acreage in production as we have today. Unfortunately, the Dust Bowl and federal law put a stop to that.
Today, it’s not the weather or poor agricultural practices holding the grape-growing industry back. Oklahoma’s archaic beer and wine laws stunt growth.
Passing State Question 792 would change that. The measure would allow grocers and convenience stores to sell wine and cold, regular-strength beer. It would also allow retail liquor stores to sell cold beer alongside non-alcohol items such as limes, corkscrews, ice and mixers. In that way, SQ 792 provides a great benefit to consumers as well.
I support the measure because it will also benefit grape growers and wine makers. We’ll be permitted to ship wine directly to consumers of legal drinking age, wherever they live. It would also make it easier for people to have their favorite wines shipped from out-of-state wineries, though of course I hope they’ll try the local varieties, too!
Modernizing the law expands the market for Oklahoma farmers. We make a great product, and we’re confident that when it becomes easier to purchase local wine, consumers will want more. Once demand increases, Oklahoma vintners can plant more acres, expand our operations and hire more people. We also anticipate more entrepreneurs will jump into the market. I welcome the competition because having more hard-working, ambitious people in the industry means innovation for all.
And once we have more Oklahomans making great wine within our borders, it will give tourists and travelers even more reason to visit Oklahoma and learn about all we have to offer. Economic studies indicate for every $1 spent on Oklahoma wine, $3 is spent on wine-related tourism.
Expanding grape production will also diversify Oklahoma’s agriculture economy, providing a buffer when poor weather or market conditions hurt other crops.
SQ 792 is the only effort to modernize Oklahoma’s beer and wine laws that voters can decide this year. It benefits everyone, from consumers to owners of Oklahoma-operated grocery stores to winemakers like myself.
A broad and growing coalition of consumers, grocers, retailers, chambers and craft brewers supports SQ 792. They all know modernizing our wine and beer laws is good for consumers and good for businesses. It’s a chance to improve our state’s image while creating jobs and keeping Oklahoma dollars here at home.
Reviving the grape industry will also bring back part of our history while preparing us for a vibrant future.
That’s why I’m voting Yes on 792.