Oklahoma voters will decide on a citizens’ initiated measure (State Question 820) legalizing the adult-use marijuana market in a special election to be held on Tuesday, March 7, 2023.
“Voters in both traditionally ‘red’ and ‘blue’ states have historically cast their vote in favor of ending the failed policy of cannabis criminalization,” NORML’s State Policies Manager Jax James said. “If the past is precedent, Oklahomans will once again demonstrate that legalizing and regulating marijuana is favored by the majority of voters, regardless of geography or party affiliation.”
Representatives with the group Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws in July turned in over 164,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office in order to place SQ 820 on the November 2022 ballot. However, the Secretary of State’s office took an excessive amount of time to verify the signatures. Opponents of the measure then filed a series of questionable legal challenges litigating various facets of the campaign, including challenges to the initiative’s summary language.
Weeks before the 2022 election, in a unanimous decision, the Oklahoma Supreme Court determined that voters would have to wait to decide the issue until either the next general election (in 2024) or until the Governor or the legislature calls for a special election. Governor Kevin Stitt (R) had said that he personally opposes legalizing marijuana for adults. He then issued an executive proclamation calling for the special election on Tuesday, March 7, 2023.
SQ 820, sponsored by the group Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws, permits adults to legally possess and home-cultivate personal use qualities of cannabis while also establishing a licensed, retail marketplace. Those with past marijuana convictions, or those who are currently incarcerated for certain cannabis-related crimes, would be able to petition the courts for either record expungement or re-sentencing consideration.
Oklahoma voters in 2018 approved a statewide ballot initiative permitting the licensed production and retail sale of cannabis to those with a physician’s authorization. That initiative was also approved during a special election. The state now has one of the most robust medical marijuana access programs in the United States. By contrast, adult-use possession is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.