Oklahomans Head to Polls for a Single Issue

State voted no on legalizing recreational pot
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 7, 2023 2:16 PM CST
Updated Mar 8, 2023 12:00 AM CST
Oklahomans Head to Polls for a Single Issue
Product is displayed at a Mango Cannabis medical marijuana dispensary, Monday, March 6, 2023, in Oklahoma City.   (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
UPDATE Mar 8, 2023 12:00 AM CST

It's a "no" from Oklahoma voters on the question of legalizing recreational cannabis. State Question 820 was rejected by more than 60% of voters Tuesday, losing every single county in the state, the Oklahoman reports. The state's current cannabis laws will remain unchanged for now, with only medical use permitted. Supporters of 820, which also would have allowed many people with weed-related convictions to seek expungement of their criminal record, expressed disappointment. "This wasn't about legalizing marijuana. This was about keeping Oklahomans out of the criminal justice system," said one adviser to the Yes on 820 Campaign. Adds a public defender who supported the proposal, "Nobody should be getting arrested for weed at this point."

Mar 7, 2023 2:16 PM CST

Oklahoma voters will decide Tuesday whether to make the state one of the most conservative to green light cannabis use for adults. State Question 820, the result of a signature gathering drive last year, is the only item on the statewide ballot. Other conservative states have legalized recreational cannabis use, including Montana in 2020 and Missouri last year, but several have rejected it , including Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The plan faces opposition from leaders of several faith groups, along with law enforcement and prosecutors, led by former Republican Gov. Frank Keating, an ex-FBI agent, and Terri White, the former head of the state's Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the AP reports.

"We don't want a stoned society," Keating said Monday, flanked by district attorneys and law enforcement officers from across the state.The proposal, if passed, would allow anyone over the age of 21 to purchase and possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana, plus concentrates and marijuana-infused products. People could also legally grow up to 12 marijuana plants. Recreational sales would be subjected to a 15% excise tax on top of the standard sales tax. The excise tax would be used to help fund local municipalities, the court system, public schools, substance abuse treatment, and the state’s general revenue fund. The proposal also outlines a judicial process for people to seek expungement or dismissal of prior marijuana-related convictions.

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Oklahoma voters already approved medical marijuana in 2018 by 14 percentage points and the state has one of the most liberal programs in the country, with roughly 10% of the state’s adult population having a medical license. The low barriers for entry into the industry has led to a flood of growers, processors, and dispensary operators competing for a limited number of customers. Supporters of full legalization say the state's marijuana industry would be buoyed by a rush of out-of-state customers, particularly from Texas, which has close to 8 million people in the Dallas-Fort Worth area just a little more than an hour's drive from the Oklahoma border.

(More Oklahoma stories.)

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