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Oklahoma Activists Submit Signatures for Recreational Pot Legalization Initiative

Oklahoma activists met a significant milestone in their efforts to legalize recreational cannabis this week with the submission of more than 164,000 signatures on petitions to qualify an adult-use weed legalization ballot initiative for this year’s general election. Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws submitted the signatures for State Question 820 to the Secretary of State’s office at the state Capitol on Tuesday, nearly a month before the deadline to qualify for the November ballot.

State Question 820, which if approved would legalize marijuana for those aged 21 years and over, will be passed. The statutory initiative would also task the state’s existing Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority with drafting and implementing regulations to govern the new adult-use cannabis industry.

The campaign representatives stated that signature collection was easy in the state, and the polling data supported the initiative. Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws had until August 1 to submit 94,910 to qualify the measure for this year’s ballot, with Tuesday’s submission eclipsing that total by nearly 70,000 signatures.

“The overwhelming number of signatures we have received demonstrates that our campaign has the momentum and that Oklahomans are ready to vote to legalize recreational marijuana for adults,” campaign director Michelle Tilley in a statement quoted by The Journal Record.

Ryan Kiesel, senior campaign advisor, stated that the initiative is likely to gain popularity among voters in November.

“We’re expecting Oklahomans to say yes to this,” he told local media.

Initiative Includes Expungement Provisions

Some people with past convictions for cannabis can petition the courts to overturn their conviction and get their criminal record erased. Representatives from the campaign believe that cannabis legalization could help tens to thousands of people.

“Oklahomans don’t think that people should be continually punished for something that’s no longer a crime,” Kiesel said.

State Question 820 would impose a 15% sales tax on adult use cannabis, which is twice as high than the 7% sales tax. 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. Kiesel stated that legalizing recreational marijuana gives the state an additional source of substantial revenue.

“To be clear, medical marijuana was never really meant to be a revenue generator for the state, it’s about medicine,” Kiesel said. “When you move over to recreational, it is a revenue generator. The revenue that we’ve seen generated with medical marijuana, we anticipate will be even larger with recreational.”

While petitions supporting the measure received strong support in the state’s metropolitan areas, Kiesel noted that Question 820 was also popular with voters outside Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

“From Woodward to Ardmore and Broken Bow to Tulsa, our campaign has been everywhere,” Kiesel said. “We have been overwhelmed by the tremendous outpouring of support for State Question 820 and the momentum of our campaign. The massive number of signatures we collected means that Oklahoma voters are ready to take the next step in common-sense marijuana laws and make major investments in critical state services.”

Constitutional Amendment Initiative would also legalize recreational pot in Oklahoma

Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action (a separate campaign) is working to pass a constitutional amendment that would legalize adult recreational cannabis. The measure, State Question 819 would amend Oklahoma’s Constitution. Therefore, it was granted 90 days to gather 177,957 signatures to support the initiative for inclusion on the November ballot.

If passed as a constitutional amendment State Question 819 will only be modified by the state legislature. More substantial changes would require another vote of the people. However, State Question 820 is subject to more substantial changes from lawmakers as it is a statute initiative.

Director of Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action Jed Green stated that legalization for recreational marijuana should be protected from being reversed by the legislature.

“The problem we’ve got with the statutory measure in place is the legislature is applying the Oklahoma double standard to our businesses,” Green said. “They came in and, all of a sudden, jacked up a bunch of fees and threw a bunch of extra regulations on us.”

With the passing of State Question 788, Oklahomans have legalized medical marijuana in 2018. Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action also campaigns for the passage of State Question 808, which amends the state constitution in order to allow medical marijuana legalization. Both proposed initiatives are open for signatures. The group will have until August 22.