Cannabis policy reform advocates in Oklahoma filed a petition on Thursday for a ballot initiative that would legalize adult-use cannabis in the state. The group, Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action, also submitted a petition for a separate initiative proposal that would modify the state’s current medical marijuana program.
“A lot of this is stuff that has been advocated for by a lot of folks in the community and industry over the last three years, and I don’t see it’s going to make it through the legislative process any time soon,” Jed Green, an organizer of the group, said about the content of two proposed ballot measures.
The recreational petition initiative, known as the Oklahoma Marijuana Regulation and Right to Use Act, would legalize cannabis for all adults 21 and older. The proposal would allow adults to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana purchased from licensed retailers.
Oklahoma Could Go Legal
Purchases of adult-use cannabis would be subject to a 15 percent excise tax, with revenue dedicated to regulating the industry. The tax on medical cannabis, currently at seven percent, would be eliminated in stages over the span of one year. Excess taxes collected for either program would be used for cannabis research, water resources, and law enforcement training.
The initiative also allows for the home cultivation of up to 12 cannabis plants, which would not be subject to the eight-ounce limit on possession. The measure also includes provisions for those with past convictions for marijuana offenses to have their records expunged or apply for judicial review.
“Until we pass recreational (marijuana legalization) we will not be able to truly bring stability to our program. Legalization prevents diversion,” Green said. “Folks have been and are going to use marijuana. Have been for decades. It is in the best interest of our state to get ahead of the curve on this issue. We must put this issue to rest.”
Medical Marijuana Reform Petition also Filed
Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action also filed a second petition to reform the state’s current medical marijuana program. The measure, titled the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Enforcement and Anti-Corruption Act, would amend the state constitution to create the Oklahoma State Cannabis Commission.
The new agency would serve as the regulatory body for medical cannabis patients and businesses. The State Health Department, at the discretion of the OSCC’s board, would retain oversight of food permit and safety regulations with cannabis products.
The commission’s board would be made up of representatives of state agencies that have regulatory authority over any aspect of the cannabis industry. The commission would also allocate funding to those agencies to support their regulatory and oversight duties.
Green also campaigned to get State Question 788 to legalize medical marijuana on the 2018 ballot. Since the initiative’s passage, Oklahoma has licensed more than 375,000 cannabis patients, more than 2,300 dispensaries, 8,600 cultivators and about 1,500 cannabis processors. But he says that a lack of enforcement of the cannabis industry has made it difficult for legal businesses to operate effectively while allowing the state to become a hotbed of illicit activity.
“What we’ve seen with that not being done is a big problem,” Green said. “The efforts that the (Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control) is making right now to clean up this variety of, especially illegal grow ops we have; that does not happen overnight. That level of infrastructure does not get built overnight.”
Both petitions include language stating that the presence of THC metabolites in a person’s bodily fluids or hair is not on its own proof of cannabis impairment. Additionally, screening tests showing the presence of such metabolites can not be used to deny a person housing, health care, public assistance or other rights.
If the petitions are not challenged within 10 days, Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action will have 90 days to gather at least 178,000 signatures for each proposal to qualify for the 2022 ballot.