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SJC Ruling Clears Path For Beer-And-Wine Sales Question On November Ballot

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The state's highest court ruled Tuesday that Attorney General Maura Healey was correct to certify a proposed ballot question allowing more stores to sell beer and wine, clearing the way for the issue to go before voters in November.

Supreme Judicial Court justices said in their opinion that the proposed law does not improperly combine disparate topics as the Massachusetts Package Stores Association had alleged.

The question, backed by convenience store giant Cumberland Farms, would permit more food stores such as Target and Walmart to sell beer and wine than is allowed under existing state law.

Opponents argued that the four main sections — creating alcohol licenses for food stores, phasing out limits on how many off-premise licenses one entity could hold, imposing new requirements for verifying customers' ages, and increasing enforcement funding — compose a "Frankenstein-like ballot initiative," echoing the multiple topics case against a proposed income surtax ballot question that the SJC ruled ineligible for the ballot.

Justices had a different court ruling in mind: they pointed to the SJC's decision on a 2016 ballot question authorizing adult-use recreational marijuana, which also contained "numerous different provisions" that they said fit under a single, cohesive umbrella.

"In the same way, each provision of Initiative Petition 19-14 is one piece of a proposed scheme to lift restrictions on off-premises licenses for the retail sale of alcoholic beverages," they wrote.

Neither the petitioners nor the plaintiffs could be reached for immediate comment Tuesday.

Supporters of the beer-and-wine question have until June 17 to submit 13,347 signatures to local election officials for certification and until July 1 to submit them to Secretary of State William Galvin's office to qualify for the Nov. 3 ballot.

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