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Sunday, March 26, 2023

Two Weeks Until Oklahoma Recreational Cannabis Vote

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In just under two weeks, Oklahoma voters will get to decide if they want an even more accessible, consumer-friendly cannabis industry when they weigh in on State Question 820, which would legalize recreational marijuana, in addition to the state’s immense medical marijuana trade.

The state already has one of the loosest MMJ industries in the nation, with low barriers to entry for entrepreneurs, a liberal allowance of cannabis for essentially any medical ailment, and thousands of businesses that have sprung into existence since the market launch in 2018.

According to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority database, as of Feb. 17 there were 11,910 licensed medical cannabis companies, including growers, dispensaries, processors, transporters, testing labs, waste disposal facilities, education facilities, and research facilities.

But it’s still unclear what exactly voters will choose, since there hasn’t been much polling on the issue since November. That survey, by Amber Integrated and KOCO 5, found 49% of voters supporting the ballot question, with 38% opposed and 13% undecided.

While those numbers likely have cannabis advocates hopeful, it’s worth remembering that it’s a special election in an off-year, which tends to drastically lower voter turnout when compared to general elections held every two years in November.

Not only that, but there’s been a political backlash for several years now from many establishment conservatives to the wide-open MMJ market, which has led to allegations of increased crime. Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt has gone on record opposing SQ 820, as have several other prominent GOP leaders in the state, such as Attorney General Gentner Drummond.

At least one organized campaign has also emerged to oppose the measure – Protect Our Kids, Vote No on 820, 5News reported this week. The campaign has been telling voters that legal cannabis is a danger to youth and would exacerbate criminal problems created by the existing MMJ industry.

By contrast, the campaign to legalize – Yes on 820 – has been touting the potential tax revenue benefits to the state if voters approve the ballot question, which they say could be more than $820 million in the first five years of sales, according to a report from law firm Vicente Sederberg.

“A majority of Oklahomans want to see legalized recreational marijuana passed, they are tired of people going to jail for minor marijuana offenses when the idea of using marijuana recreationally is pretty widely accepted,” campaign director Michelle Tilley told 5News.

It’s also worth noting that the legalization movement has suffered multiple electoral setbacks in recent years, particularly on recreational marijuana questions. In November, three of five states that tried to legalize cannabis rejected recreational: Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota, each of which already have operational MMJ industries, and each of which are politically conservative.

Which means it’s still hard to say just yet what will happen on Election Night in Oklahoma.

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