Oklahoma activists met a significant milestone in their efforts to legalize recreational cannabis this week with the submission of more than 164,000 signatures on petitions to qualify an adult-use weed legalization ballot initiative for this year’s general election. Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws submitted the signatures for State Question 820 to the Secretary of State’s office at the state Capitol on Tuesday, nearly a month before the deadline to qualify for the November ballot.
If passed, State Question 820 would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older. The statutory initiative would also task the state’s existing Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority with drafting and implementing regulations to govern the new adult-use cannabis industry.
Representatives of the campaign said that collecting signatures for the ballot measure was brisk throughout the state and polling data showed strong support for the initiative. Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws had until August 1 to submit 94,910 to qualify the measure for this year’s ballot, with Tuesday’s submission eclipsing that total by nearly 70,000 signatures.
“The overwhelming number of signatures we have received demonstrates that our campaign has the momentum and that Oklahomans are ready to vote to legalize recreational marijuana for adults,” campaign director Michelle Tilley in a statement quoted by The Journal Record.
Senior campaign adviser Ryan Kiesel said that he expects the initiative to be popular with voters when they go to the polls in November.
“We’re expecting Oklahomans to say yes to this,” he told local media.
Initiative Includes Expungement Provisions
State Question 820 also includes provisions to allow some people with past cannabis convictions to petition the courts to reverse their conviction and have their criminal record expunged. Campaign representatives believe that tens of thousands of people could benefit from having their records cleared under the cannabis legalization initiative.
“Oklahomans don’t think that people should be continually punished for something that’s no longer a crime,” Kiesel said.
State Question 820 would set a 15% tax on adult-use cannabis sales, more than twice 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. Kiesel noted that legalizing recreational cannabis gives the state a new source of significant revenue.
“To be clear, medical marijuana was never really meant to be a revenue generator for the state, it’s about medicine,” Kiesel said. “When you move over to recreational, it is a revenue generator. The revenue that we’ve seen generated with medical marijuana, we anticipate will be even larger with recreational.”
While petitions supporting the measure received strong support in the state’s metropolitan areas, Kiesel noted that Question 820 was also popular with voters outside Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
“From Woodward to Ardmore and Broken Bow to Tulsa, our campaign has been everywhere,” Kiesel said. “We have been overwhelmed by the tremendous outpouring of support for State Question 820 and the momentum of our campaign. The massive number of signatures we collected means that Oklahoma voters are ready to take the next step in common-sense marijuana laws and make major investments in critical state services.”
Constitutional Amendment Initiative Would Also Legalize Recreational Pot in Oklahoma
A separate group, Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action, is campaigning to pass a state constitutional initiative that would legalize recreational marijuana for adults. Because the measure, State Question 819, would amend the Oklahoma Constitution, the group was given 90 days to collect 177,957 signatures in favor of the initiative to qualify for the November ballot.
As a constitutional amendment, State Question 819 would be subject to only minor modifications of its provisions by the state legislature if passed, with more substantial changes requiring another vote of the people. State Question 820, however, is at risk of more significant changes by lawmakers because it is a statutory initiative.
Jed Green, director of Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action, said that recreational pot legalization should be enshrined in the state constitution to protect it from being rolled back by a state legislature that has refused to legalize cannabis for use by adults.
“The problem we’ve got with the statutory measure in place is the legislature is applying the Oklahoma double standard to our businesses,” Green said. “They came in and, all of a sudden, jacked up a bunch of fees and threw a bunch of extra regulations on us.”
In 2018, Oklahomans legalized medical cannabis with the passage of State Question 788. Because that initiative is also a statutory measure, Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action is also campaigning for passage of State Question 818, which would amend the state constitution to protect the legalization of medical cannabis. The group has until August 22 to collect signatures for both proposed initiatives.