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Ruling Clears The Way For Oregon Liquor Privatization Measure To Proceed

Liquor on the shelves of a state-regulated store in Washington, before privatization there.
Tom Banse
Northwest News Network
Liquor on the shelves of a state-regulated store in Washington, before privatization there.

The effort to privatize liquor sales in Oregon cleared a hurdle Thursday when the state Supreme Court gave the go-ahead for initiative sponsors to gather signatures. The potential ballot measure is already raking in millions from the grocery industry.

The measure would take the state of Oregon out of the business of selling hard liquor such as whiskey, vodka and gin, which currently can only be sold in state-chartered stores. Grocers want to be able to offer those products to customers along with their current selection of beer and wine.

The industry has already raised $3 million in its efforts to get the initiative on this November's ballot. The bulk of the cash has come from the Idaho-based company that owns the Albertsons and Safeway grocery chains.

Opponents include public employee unions. Those groups unsuccessfully lobbied for the ballot measure's official description to emphasize the potential loss in state revenues if liquor sales are privatized.

Washington voters approved a liquor privatization measure in 2011. That ballot initiative was backed by a grocery trade association, a restaurant association and Costco.

Copyright 2016 Northwest News Network

Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.