HB 3194 privatizes low-proof spirit beverages

03/05/2021

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This bill privatizes the sale of low-proof spirit beverages, permitting the sale, import, export, ship or delivery of these distilled spirits products in off-premises licensees such as grocery and convenience stores.

Personal Choice and Responsibility
Oregon is facing one of the worst addiction crises in the nation, 3rd highest untreated addiction rate in the nation, the 4th highest alcohol use disorder rate, and rank virtually last in access to treatment. Alcohol-related death is the 3rd leading cause of preventable death in Oregon and alcohol kills five times as many people as all drug overdoses combined–a rate that has increased 34% in the last 21 years. HB 3194 would allow stores to sell “cocktails in a can” or, as they’re known in the public health field “alcopops”. These are sugary, 8-14% alcoholic beverages that pose an especially high risk for young people reporting 50% of age 13-20 drink alcopops.

Limited Government
HB 3194 defines “low-proof spirit beverage” as containing not more than 14% ABV (in Washington it’s 7%) to be taxed at $0.65 cents per gallon. This follows the ABV limitation on table wine and the tax rate. (Table wine is also subject to an additional tax of 2 cents allocated to the Oregon Wine Board.) Applying comparable ABV limits and tax rates to these very different products, without clear justification, is not appropriate. Historically in the United States, the type of alcohol has been the basis for differing policies regarding production, distribution, retail sales, and taxes. Treating low-proof spirit beverages like wine would be a major shift in Oregon alcohol sales and tax policy.

Free Markets
Weakens the control of the state system by creating an exception which allows the distribution of distilled spirits outside of state control. It may be good for free markets, but does not protect citizens and tax payers from residual fallout. Exception blurs the line between types of alcoholic beverages and the way they are taxed, distributed, and regulated.

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