Oklahoma activists submit signatures for initiative to legalize recreational pots

Oklahoma activists this week reached a significant milestone in their efforts to legalize recreational cannabis by submitting more than 164,000 petition signatures to qualify a voting rights initiative legalizing cannabis for adults in this year’s general election. Oklahomanes for Sensible Marijuana Laws submitted the signatures for State Question 820 to the Secretary of State’s office in the state Capitol on Tuesday, almost a month ahead of the deadline to qualify for the November election.

If passed, State Question 820 would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older. The legislative initiative would also task the state’s existing Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority with drafting and implementing regulations to regulate the new adult-use cannabis industry.

Campaign officials said that signature gathering for the ballot measure was brisk across the state and polling data showed strong support for the initiative. Oklahoma’s for Sensible Marijuana Laws had until Aug. 1 to submit 94,910 to qualify the measure for this year’s vote, with Tuesday’s submission surpassing that total by nearly 70,000 signatures.

“The overwhelming number of signatures we have received shows that our campaign has the momentum and that Oklahomaners are ready to vote to legalize adult-use recreational marijuana,” campaign director Michelle Tilley said in a statement published by The Journal Record quoted statement.

Senior campaign adviser Ryan Kiesel said he expects the initiative to be popular with voters when they go to the polls in November.

“We expect Oklahomans to say yes to that,” he told local media.

Initiative includes deletion provisions

State Question 820 also includes provisions that allow some individuals with prior cannabis convictions to petition the courts to have their convictions overturned and their criminal records expunged. Campaign officials believe tens of thousands of people could benefit from having their records wiped as part of the cannabis legalization initiative.

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

State Question 820 would set a 15% tax on the sale of adult-use cannabis, more than double the 7% tax rate levied on the sale of medicinal cannabis. Taxes generated by the sale of recreational cannabis would be split between the state’s general revenue fund, local governments that allow licensed cannabis companies to use cannabis in their jurisdictions, the state court system, school districts and drug treatment programs. Kiesel pointed out that the legalization of recreational cannabis will create a significant new revenue stream for the state.

“To be clear, medical marijuana was never really meant to be a revenue source for the state, it’s about medicine,” said Kiesel. “When you move to the recreational field, that’s a source of income. The revenue we have made from medical marijuana expects to be even greater from recreational marijuana.”

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

“From Woodward to Ardmore and Broken Bow to Tulsa, our campaign was everywhere,” said Kiesel. “We have been blown away by the tremendous support for State Issue 820 and the momentum of our campaign. The tremendous number of signatures we’ve garnered means that Oklahoma voters are ready to take the next step toward sane marijuana laws and make big investments in vital government services.”

Constitutional amendment initiative would also legalize recreational pot in Oklahoma

A separate group, Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action, is lobbying for passage of a state constitutional initiative that would legalize recreational marijuana for adults. Because the measure, State Question 819, would change the Oklahoma constitution, the group had 90 days to collect 177,957 signatures for the initiative to qualify for the November election.

As a constitutional amendment, the State Question 819, if passed, would be subject to only minor changes to its provisions by the state legislature, with major changes requiring a further popular vote. However, the State Question 820 is threatened with major changes by the legislature as it is a legislative initiative.

Jed Green, director of Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action, said legalization of recreational cannabis should be enshrined in the state constitution to protect it from being reversed by a state legislature that has refused to legalize recreational cannabis legalize adult use.

“The problem we have with the legislative action is that the legislature is applying Oklahoma’s double standards to our businesses,” Green said. “They came in and they suddenly kicked up a bunch of fees and hit us with a bunch of extra regulations.”

In 2018, Oklahomans legalized medicinal cannabis with the passage of State Question 788. Because this initiative is also a legislative action, Oklahomas for Responsible Cannabis Action is also lobbying for the passage of State Question 818, which would amend the state constitution to protect the legalization of medicinal cannabis. The group has until August 22 to collect signatures for both proposed initiatives.

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