Oklahoma and Pennsylvania Could Soon Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis

In OK, marijuana advocacy group Green the Vote got enough signatures to put legalization on the ballot, while in PA, State Rep. Wheatley announced a legalization bill.
Oklahoma Will Not Have Recreational Marijuana on November Ballot
Sonya Yruel/Drug Policy Alliance

Oklahoma and Pennsylvania are at different places on their respective paths toward adult-use cannabis legalization. But on Monday, both states took significant steps toward that end. In Pennsylvania, State Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny) announced his plan to introduce progressive marijuana legislation. And in Oklahoma, the cannabis advocacy group Green the Vote announced it had acquired the required number of signatures to put a vote for adult-use legalization on the ballot in November. Both build on the considerable momentum recent efforts to reform drug policy have generated in those states.

Oklahoma Could Vote on Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization This November

One month ago, Oklahoma voters approved State Question 788, legalizing cannabis for medical use. Almost immediately, lawmakers and officials opposed to the measure began adding restrictions to the new program, including a highly controversial ban on smokable medical marijuana.

Oklahoma Republicans joined Democrats to call for the Oklahoma Board of Health to revise draft regulations for the program. The board released their revised version last Friday. The new rules remove many of the major restrictions for which the anti-cannabis Oklahoma State Medical Association had successfully lobbied.

As part of that battle, a persistent anti-cannabis talking point had been that Oklahoma voters did not know what they were saying yes to when they approved SQ 788. But voters and lawmakers pushed back, vowing to fight for the program as they had voted for it.

Building on that momentum, the pro-cannabis group Green the Vote circulated a petition to put a question on legal adult-use cannabis on the November 2018 ballot.

On Monday, the group announced that it had collected nearly 10,000 more than the required 124,000 signatures needed by Aug. 8 for the measure to make it on the ballot.

Those signatures still need verification. And that means there’s a slight chance the question could not make it on the ballot this November. But if that happens, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin can call a special election. Otherwise, the question would have to wait until the next statewide election in 2020.

Pro-Cannabis State Rep. Will Introduce Legalization Bill in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania isn’t just working toward legal adult-use cannabis. Progressive prosecutors, mayors, and lawmakers are making social justice a focal point of their campaign to reform drug policy.

The election of Larry Krasner to Philadelphia District Attorney has already led to sweeping changes in the way courts handle drug cases. Pittsburgh Mayor Pill Peduto is teaming up with Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to advocate for cannabis as an alternative to prescription opioids.

DePasquale also just released an economic report on the benefits of legalization that estimates Pennsylvania could bring in $581 million in tax revenue from legal weed.

Seizing the momentum and the moment, Demcratic State Rep. Jake Wheatley is planning to introduce legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis. Wheatley’s measure would furthermore expunge criminal records for non-violent, misdemeanor marijuana convictions. Similar expungement proposals are in the table in Vermont and Delaware.

In a press releasing announcing the bill, Wheatley said it was time for Pennsylvania to abandon the ugly stigma of cannabis. He also wants to see PA take advantage of the same opportunities legalization has generated in other states.

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