Despite a lawmaker’s worries it could lead to legalizing marijuana, a measure that would allow Oklahomans to legally brew beer for their own use won easy passage Wednesday in the House of Representatives.
House Bill 2348 would allow Oklahomans to brew up to 200 gallons, or about 80 cases, a year for their personal use.
They must get a permit from the state’s liquor agency, just as people who make wine or cider do now. Beer made for personal use would not be subject to excise tax.
It’s legal for Oklahomans to make wine and cider, but state law excludes beer brewing, said Rep. Colby Schwartz, author of HB 2348. Many brew beer for their own use, to serve to guests and to enter in beer-making competitions.
The prohibition is rarely enforced, said Schwartz, R-Yukon. State liquor agents are hard-pressed to enforce laws at commercial establishments, let alone going door to door to check brewing operations.
Anyone brewing beer at home now could face a fine of up to $5,000.
HB 2348 passed 76-19. It now goes to the Senate.
"What’s next?” asked Rep. Todd Russ, R-Cordell. "California has marijuana legalized. We complain people are making drugs in their houses right now and yet we’re going to go and pass a bill that says this (home brew) is not a bad drug.”
Bill brings 'parity'
"If you want to have a debate and carry a bill out here that outlaws all alcohol in Oklahoma, you can do that,” Schwartz said. "What I chose to do is to bring the home making of beer into parity with what is already provided for wine and cider.”
Russ said he worries legalizing home brewing could lead to more state alcohol problems.
Schwartz said most home brewers are responsible, often spending thousands of dollars on equipment. It takes time to make the beer compared with being able to buy beer or liquor now for immediate consumption.
Russ told his fellow House members to think twice before voting for HB 2348, "and if you go to church Sunday, remember how you voted today.”
‘This is ridiculous’
Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said he thought conservatives were against government in people’s lives. It’s not an issue about character — at least three of the Founding Fathers made their own brews, he said.
"Samuel Adams has a beer named after him,” Dorman said.
"This is ridiculous,” he said. "These people have this as a hobby, they make their own product and they share it with their friends. ... This is one of those issues that makes us look stupid to the rest of the country.”
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT
March 4, 2010
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