Oklahoma activists have submitted what they say are more than enough signatures to qualify a marijuana legalization initiative for the November ballot.
The Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws (OSML) campaign announced on Tuesday that it had turned in over 164,000 signatures to the secretary of state’s office. They need 177,958 of the submissions to be valid in order to qualify the proposed statutory amendment.
The initiative would allow adults 21 and older in the state to possess and purchase up to an ounces of cannabis and grow a limited number of plants for personal use. The campaign, which is being backed by the national New Approach PAC, is one of two citizen efforts to put legalization on the ballot, with another one still in the process of signature gathering for its own pair of complementary initiatives.
That other campaign, Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action (ORCA), tried to challenge the constitutionality of the competing measure on a single-subject basis, but the Supreme Court rejected the argument in April.
In any case, OSML has pulled ahead and expects its measure to go before voters in November. Following the resolution of any challenges submitted to the signatures during a 10-day period and the verification of the petitions by the secretary of state’s office, officials there will notify the governor, who would then issue an election proclamation certifying the measure for the ballot.
Thank you to the tens of thousands of Oklahoma voters and volunteers who made #SQ820 a reality. Together, we can take the next step in common-sense marijuana reform and generate new funding for critical investments like healthcare and education.
Onward to November! pic.twitter.com/pROHqy92XW
— Yes on 820 Campaign (@YesOn820) July 5, 2022
“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,” Michelle Tilley, campaign director of the New Approach campaign, said in a press release. “We are grateful to the thousands of Oklahoma voters who signed State Question 820 and believe in responsible marijuana policy.”
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Meanwhile, the separate OCRA campaign is soliciting volunteers to stay in play and collect enough signatures to go through the same verification process in hopes of making the ballot.
“We wanted to take advantage of our [medical cannabis] retail locations across the state…nice, indoor areas where folks could go to sign because it’s hot out there,” OCRA Director Jedd Green told Tulsa World. “And then from there, we’ve got folks who are starting to come in, pick up packets and then actually work their way out into the field and doing events.”
Here’s what the New Approach-backed OSML initiative would achieve:
The measure would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis, grow up to six mature plants and six seedings for personal use. The current Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority would be responsible for regulating the program and issuing cannabis business licenses.
A 15 percent excise tax would be imposed on adult-use marijuana products, with revenue going to an “Oklahoma Marijuana Revenue Trust Fund.”
The funds would first cover the cost of administrating the program and the rest would be divided between municipalities where the sales occurred (10 percent), the State Judicial Revolving Fund (10 percent), the general fund (30 percent), public education grants (30 percent) and grants for programs involved in substance misuse treatment and prevention (20 percent).
People serving in prison for activity made legal under the measure could “file a petition for resentencing, reversal of conviction and dismissal of case, or modification of judgment and sentence.” Those who’ve already served their sentence for such a conviction could also petition the courts for expungement.
Here’s what the ORCA initiatives would do:
The campaign’s recreational legalization proposal would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana that they purchase from retailers, as well as whatever cannabis they yield from growing up to 12 plants for personal use.
Marijuana sales would be subject to a 15 percent excise tax, and the initiative outlines a number of programs that would receive partial revenue from those taxes. The money would first cover implementation costs and then would be divided to support water-related infrastructure, people with disabilities, substance misuse treatment, law enforcement training, cannabis research and more.
The measure also lays out pathways for resentencing and expungements for those with marijuana convictions.
ORCA’s second initiative focuses on remodeling the state’s existing medical cannabis program.
Oklahoma voters approved medical cannabis legalization at the ballot in 2018. Unlike many state medical marijuana programs, it does not require patients have any specific qualifying conditions; doctors can recommend cannabis for any condition they see fit.
The campaign wants to revamp the program with an initiative that would establish the Oklahoma State Cannabis Commission (OSCC) to oversee all areas of the medical marijuana system. It would also set a seven percent excise tax on medical cannabis sales, with revenue supporting marijuana research, rural impact and urban waste remediation, agriculture development, mental health response programs, substance misuse treatment and more.
Ryan Kiesel, senior campaign advisor for the OSML initiative, said that the activists 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,” he said.
Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) claimed in his State of the State speech earlier this year that voters were mislead when they passed an earlier 2018 initiative to legalize medical marijuana in the state, arguing that the measure may require legislative reform.
The governor said that the ballot question passed by voters “was misleading, and it has tied our hands as we regulate the industry.”
For his part, state Rep. Scott Fetgatter (R) said in an op-ed for Marijuana Moment that was published in March that states should legalize cannabis, but he wants to see the legislature craft thoughtful regulations for an adult-use program, rather than leave it to voters at the ballot.
Meanwhile, an Oklahoma Senate committee in April unanimously approved a House-passed bill to allow for the cultivation and administration of psilocybin by eligible institutions for research purposes—but the version that senators advanced omits a broader decriminalization provision that had previously been included. The legislation was ultimately not enacted before the end of the session.
Here’s the state of play for other drug policy reform ballot measures in 2022:
Maryland lawmakers passed legislation this year, which the governor allowed to go into effect without his signature, that will put the issue of cannabis legalization before voters this November.
In May, South Dakota officials certified that activists turned in a sufficient number of signatures earlier this month to qualify a marijuana legalization measure for the November ballot.
Advocates in Missouri have turned in more than double the amount of signatures needed to qualify a marijuana legalization initiative for the ballot.
Colorado activists announced last week that they have submitted what they believe to be more than enough signatures to place a measure on the state’s ballot that would legalize psychedelics and create licensed psilocybin “healing centers” where people can use the substance for therapeutic purposes. A competing psychedelic reform campaign is still gathering signatures for a competing, more simplified measure.
North Dakota activists recently cleared a procedural hurdle to start collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in the state.
Nebraska activists that are pushing for a pair of complementary medical cannabis ballot initiatives have until July 7 to turn in sufficient signatures to qualify, and the campaign has been pleading with voters to take initiative to sign the petitions, donate and volunteer to get them past the finish line after losing critical funding.
An initiative to legalize marijuana will not appear on Ohio’s November ballot, the campaign behind the measure announced in May. But activists did reach a settlement with state officials in a legal challenge that will give them a chance to hit the ground running in 2023.
Michigan activists announced last month that they will no longer be pursuing a statewide psychedelics legalization ballot initiative for this year’s election and will instead focus on qualifying the measure to go before voters in 2024.
The campaign behind an effort to decriminalize drugs and expand treatment and recovery services in Washington State said that last month that it has halted its push to qualify an initiative for November’s ballot.
While Wyoming activists said earlier this year that they made solid progress in collecting signatures for a pair of ballot initiatives to decriminalize marijuana possession and legalize medical cannabis, they didn’t get enough to make the 2022 ballot deadline and will be aiming for 2024 while simultaneously pushing the legislature to advance reform even sooner.
In March, California activists announced that they came up short on collecting enough signatures to qualify a measure to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for the state’s November ballot, though they aren’t giving up on a future election cycle bid.
Meanwhile, there are various local reforms that activists want to see voters decide on this November—including local marijuana decriminalization ordinances in Ohio, West Virginia and Texas.
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Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.