Oklahoma Voters Head To The Polls To Decide On Marijuana Legalization

Voters in Oklahoma headed to the polls on Tuesday to decide on State Question 820, a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana. If passed, the initiative would legalize the possession of cannabis for adults 21 and older and establish a regulatory framework to govern recreational marijuana production and sales 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.

A Chance For Voters To Reject ‘Reefer Madness’

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.”

If passed, SQ 820 would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older. The initiative tasks 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.

The ballot measure would set a 15% tax on sales of recreational marijuana, more than double the 7% tax rate levied on sales of medical cannabis, which was legalized by Oklahoma voters in 2018. 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.

Vote On Marijuana Legalization 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.”

In October, Stitt announced that he was calling a special election for SQ 820 to be held on March 7, setting the stage for Tuesday’s election on the recreational marijuana legalization measure. For most voters in Oklahoma, SQ 820 will be the only item on the ballot. Polling places opened at 7:00 a.m. CST on Tuesday and are scheduled to remain open until 7:00 p.m. local time.

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