An initiative petition seeking to give certain grocery stores the opportunity to sell unrefrigerated wine has drawn two protests.
The protests were filed with the Oklahoma Supreme Court earlier in the week, although only one of them is on file with the Secretary of State's office.
Both protests focus on the ballot language itself because it doesn't address a single topic, which is required of initiative petitions under state law.
Each protest also claims the proposed ballot language violates the equal protection clause of the state's constitution because it only allows certain stores to sell wine.
Court records show that Yousef Javadzadeh, who owns several convenience stores in the Oklahoma City area, has filed his protest with both the Supreme Court and the secretary of state.
Two groups, the Oklahoma Prevention Policy Alliance and Fighting Addiction Through Education, filed the other protest with the state's highest court. That protest was not filed with the secretary of state's office by the close of business Wednesday.
The groups' protest goes on to claim that allowing more wine to be sold in Oklahoma would further stretch the “scarce resources” available to the state's Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission.
A nonconstitutional challenge leveled by the groups is that more wine in Oklahoma will spell more trouble.
“While neither organization advocates a return to the days of Prohibition, both organizations and their members understand that increasing alcohol availability increases the opportunity for alcohol abuse,” the groups' protest reads.
“It is an undeniable reality that alcohol is the most abused drug in the state of Oklahoma, carrying with it an incalculable expense in terms of human lives and economic capital.”
Attempts to reach Javadzadeh through his attorneys or at one of his stores weren't successful.
Brian Howe, a spokesman for the group attempting to circulate the petition and change Oklahoma's alcohol laws, said he's confident the legal process will play out in his favor.
“Our lawyers say this isn't too hard a defense for us,” Howe said. “But that's both good and bad ... because we weren't exactly sure, with the way the law is written, when exactly we can start circulating the petitions once the language is accepted.”
Howe said his group will have to wait at least a month before a referee decides the next step.
According to court records, the protesters have until May 4 to file opening briefs with the state Supreme Court.
Howe and his group, Oklahomans for Modern Laws, have until May 17 to respond.
A court referee will listen to both sides May 23.
Howe's group is trying to get a state question on the ballot in November that would give Oklahoma's 15 largest counties the option of allowing certain grocery stores to sell wine. The group has roughly three months to collect more than 150,000 signatures once the ballot language is approved.
Under current law, only liquor stores can sell wine and strong beer, neither of which can be refrigerated before being sold.
Oklahomans for Modern Laws initially sought to change laws that would allow the sale of wine and strong beer in certain convenience stores and grocery stores, but opposition from the wholesale liquor industry has been considerable, Howe said.