Changes are coming from the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) on how the government agency handles its Chance to Purchase program for rare spirits. This program that’s a randomized drawing provides Oregon residents of legal drinking age an opportunity to purchase highly sought after spirits came under scrutiny over the past year with resignations and stories of quid pro quo.
This past December, an internal investigation found that OLCC officials, including upper level management, had been setting aside many of these rare bottles such as Pappy Van Winkle and Elmer T. Lee to be sent to selected OLCC liquor stores for their purchase at Oregon prices. These prices are far less than what these bottles sell for in non-controlled states where they can reach thousands of dollars.
This led to the resignation of Steve Marks, the former Executive Director of the OLCC, along with other OLCC employees, many that were pulling in over six figure salaries from the state. (The Oregonian did an excellent investigative article on this matter that can be read by clicking here and here.)
According to the OLCC’s press release, the new Chance to Purchase policy is the result of work done by the agency to provide better clarity on how highly sought after distilled spirits, like Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, are made available to retail customers, other than licensed bars and restaurants. The Chance to Purchase program, in operation since 2018, was suspended earlier this year due to concerns arising from misappropriation of bottles of rare distilled spirits.
New guidelines specify how Chance to Purchase will operate and spell out OLCC’s internal responsibilities with a greater emphasis on transparency and accountability. The new policy includes provisions for a third-party to conduct the drawing, sets out clearer eligibility guidelines and includes a set schedule of quarterly drawings beginning in Q1 2024.