Voters in Oklahoma will head to the polls on Tuesday to decide on State Question 820, a ballot measure that would legalize recreational marijuana statewide. If passed, the initiative would legalize the possession of cannabis for adults 21 and older and establish a framework to govern the recreational marijuana industry in the state.
Cannabis activists had hoped that State Question 820 (SQ 820) would appear before voters during the 2022 general election, but delays in certifying the measure prevented the initiative from appearing on the ballot last November. In October, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt announced that voters would go to the polls on March 7 to decide the fate of the measure.
As activists prepare for Tuesday’s election, Michelle Tilley, campaign director for the Yes on 820 campaign, says that the cannabis legalization measure gives voters “a chance to reject the ‘Reefer Madness’ style scare tactics being pushed by our opponents and choose instead to support a reform that will make our state more prosperous, more just and more safe.”
“We are working down to the wire to get every last ‘yes’ vote in the state on the phone, on the doorstep, or in the media,” Tilley wrote in an email to High Times. “We are confident that, if Oklahomans turn out to vote, the majority supporting commonsense legalization will prevail.”
Vote On SQ 820 Delayed By Oklahoma Supreme Court
In July, the group Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws submitted petitions with signatures from more than 164,000 voters in favor of the legalization initiative, far exceeding the number required to qualify for the ballot. But the secretary of state’s office, which used a new system to verify signatures, took far longer to certify the signatures than in previous elections, leaving too little time to include the question on the November ballot, according to election officials.
The campaign for SQ 820 challenged the decision to delay the vote on the initiative, arguing the group had met all guidance from the government and complied with deadlines for submitting the proposal to state officials. But last month, the state Supreme Court affirmed the decision by election officials and ruled that the measure would not be included on the ballot for the midterm election next month.
“There is no way to mandate the inclusion of SQ820 on the November 2022 general election ballot,” Justice Douglas Combs wrote in the majority opinion. “SQ820 will be voted upon by the people of Oklahoma, albeit either at the next general election following November 8, 2022, or at a special election set by the Governor or the Legislature.”
Special Election Announced In October
In October, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt announced that he was calling a special election for SQ 820 to be held on March 7, setting the stage to finally give the state’s voters the opportunity to decide on the recreational marijuana legalization measure. Since that time, activists have been busy preparing for the vote with public appeals to gain support for the measure. On February 27, retired Army officer Jay Williams asked voters to approve the ballot initiative, saying that SQ 820 would help military veterans cope with the persistent negative effects of their service.
“I proudly served this country to protect our freedom,” Williams said in an ad for the campaign. “But for many veterans, that pride comes with a cost: PTSD. Oklahoma veterans can’t access medical marijuana through the VA, so they suffer or risk harsh punishment, even jail. That’s wrong. Yes on 820 means improved access to medical marijuana for Oklahoma veterans and it reduces punishment for minor marijuana offenses and increases drug treatment to turn lives around.”
If voters approve SQ 820 on Tuesday, the ballot measure would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older. The initiative would task the state’s existing Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority with drafting and implementing rules to regulate the new recreational cannabis industry. The measure also includes provisions to allow those with past convictions for some marijuana offenses to petition the courts to have their criminal record expunged.
SQ 820 would set a 15% tax on sales of recreational marijuana, more than double the 7% tax rate levied on sales of medical cannabis. Taxes generated by the sale of recreational pot would be divided among the state’s General Revenue Fund, local governments that allow licensed adult-use cannabis businesses to operate in their jurisdiction, the state court system, school districts, and drug treatment programs.