Oklahomans reject ballot initiative to legalize cannabis: ‘It’s the best thing to do to protect our children’

From Nina Zdinjak

Oklahomans rejected the cannabis legalization proposal Tuesday, some five years after the state legalized medical marijuana. If it had existed, the State Question would have allowed 820 adults 21 and older to purchase weed from licensed retailers, and would have regulated and taxed the sale.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R), who does not support the legalization of adult marijuana by any state but believes the matter should be left to the federal government, was pleased with the voting results. On Tuesday, when the defeat was forecast, he said: “I believe this is the best thing to do to protect our children and our state as a whole. I will continue to work to protect the people of Oklahoma, and my administration will continue to hold bad actors accountable and crack down on illegal marijuana operations,” the Washington Post reported.

Photo by RobinOlimb/Getty Images

A few weeks before the election, he said in an interview published by Tulsa World, “I think the Fed needs to make a decision on marijuana,” wrote the Cannabis Business Times. Despite opposing a federal marijuana policy, Stitt allowed a special election Tuesday after petitioners failed last fall.

RELATED: Will Oklahoma Be the Next State to Legalize Marijuana?

Commenting on the failure of the initiative, Jeffrey M. Zucker, co-founder and president of Green Lion Partners and executive vice chairman of the Marijuana Policy Project, said, “Today’s decision in Oklahoma is heartbreaking, especially considering how many challenges the bill faces before the vote and how much work the proponents put into it. We still have a long way to go to undo the damage of the drug war, especially in a state where more than 4,500 people are arrested for cannabis possession each year.”

Supporters & opponents cross swords

In recent weeks, both pro- and anti-marijuana voices have been raised in the Sooner State, with significant opposition from GOP lawmakers. In addition to the state governor expressing his stance against legalizing cannabis, US Senator James Lankford (R) recently urged the state resident to vote no to the measure.

One thing that may also have played a role in the outcome of the vote may be a recent report from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (OBN) revealing that there is a connection between sex trafficking, prostitution and drug trafficking and medical Marijuana farms exist across the state.

RELATED: Oklahoma is suing pregnant women for using medical marijuana

Marijuana advocates, on the other hand, were very familiar with the projected economic benefits that would result from cannabis legalization. Just recently, cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg released a report on the economic impact of legalizing adult-use cannabis, which predicted that the state could see $821 million in combined tax and recreational taxes from 2004 to 2028. Of the total, the recreational market alone would account for $434 million. Under the proposed measure, there would be a 15% state excise tax, a standard state sales tax and possibly local taxes.

legal illegal marijuanaPhoto by Prostock Studio/Getty Images

For cannabis advocates, the fight is far from over. Organizers of the “Yes on 820” campaign to regulate cannabis in Oklahoma said in an email to the Washington Post that despite the current failure, “legalization is not a question of ‘if,’ it is a question of ‘when.'”

“Our mission from the beginning has been to create a more prosperous, equitable, and secure state,” said Michelle Tilley, campaign director for Yes on 820. “We are moms and dads who want more revenue in our schools, more law enforcement resources, and more Jobs and investment in communities across the state. Unfortunately we came up short tonight.”

This article originally appeared on Benzinga and has been republished with permission.

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