Oklahoma voters will reject legalization of recreational marijuana, CNN projects


Voters in Oklahoma will reject a ballot measure that would have legalized recreational marijuana in the state for adults ages 21 and older, CNN projects.

The ballot measure at stake in Tuesday’s special election was one of several such measures on cannabis use that has been considered by voters in recent months.

Oklahoma’s measure would have allowed for possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana and the growth of up to six mature marijuana plants and up to six seedlings. If it had passed, there would also have been a 15% tax of sales for recreational marijuana in the state.

Supporters of legalizing recreational marijuana in the Sooner State had pushed to see this measure on the ballot for years. Due to legal challenges and ballot inclusion deadlines, State Question 820 was left off the ballot in November.

During the midterms, voters in five states considered legalizing recreational marijuana. Ballot measures in November failed in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota, while voters in Maryland and Missouri were able to pass similar ballot measures.

Yes. In 2018, Oklahoma approved a ballot measure legalizing the use, sale and growth of medical marijuana. Recreational use of marijuana, however, remains illegal in the state.

Supporters of the measure argued the legalization would bring in new tax revenue. Yes on 820, a campaign in favor of recreational marijuana legalization, released an economic analysis completed by Vicente Sederberg LLP and the Oklahoma Cannabis Industry Association. It found the state could gain $821 million in medical and recreational taxes over four years if the measure passed, with $434 million coming solely from the new recreational tax.

GOP lawmakers in Oklahoma had been vocal about opposing the measure leading up to the election.

“Oklahoma has seen marijuana use skyrocket, hurting our communities and families,” US Sen. James Lankford tweeted last week. “Protect our kids by voting NO on March 7 on State Question 820 to protect our state from a dramatic increase of Marijuana sales.”

Oklahoma GOP Gov. Kevin Stitt said in a news briefing last month that he “thinks it’s a bad idea” because recreational marijuana is still illegal federally and believes “the feds need to make a decision about marijuana.”

Those opposed to recreational marijuana in Oklahoma, including Stitt, had also noted that the state already has medical marijuana.

“We already have medical marijuana to help the sick or the people that need it for pain relief, etc. And so, I think marijuana is bad for young people,” Stitt said. “I think people need to understand the side effects of that. I think we need to be protecting Oklahoma from a recreational standpoint.”

Michelle Tilley, Yes on 820 campaign director, argued that people in Oklahoma “should have access to marijuana without having to go through those steps” required to receive medical marijuana.

“There are people who use marijuana recreationally, much like you would go and have a glass of wine or a beer,” Tilley said. “We think that there needs to be a safe, regulated product here in Oklahoma for those people to purchase without the threat of being arrested or put into jail and have their lives ruined.”

This story has been updated with CNN’s projection in the special election.

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