Oklahoma voters have spoken, and they have said “no” to legalizing recreational marijuana sales.
More than 61% of voters rejected State Question 820. That is a landslide; however, only about 25% of eligible voters participated in the Tuesday special election. That compares to about 40% participation when medical marijuana was on the ballot.
We believe the vote reflects the frustration many Oklahomans have had with the mostly unregulated medical marijuana industry.
There had been good support for medical marijuana prior to the vote in 2018. However, State Question 788 has generally been categorized as poorly written and brought in many aspects that Oklahomans weren’t expecting, including a lot of black-market grows, illegal and illicit activity and large land purchases by foreign entities. Oklahoma became a target for bad actors looking to take advantage of loose regulations.
A low cost of entry for commercial license fees in the medical marijuana program also led to thousands of businesses entering the market. This resulted in a glut of the product and too many dispensaries to serve the demand.
Most law enforcement agencies opposed expanding legalization of recreational marijuana; however, many do understand the criminal justice reform part of legalizing it. Expanding the law would have effectively decriminalized marijuana use and would have allowed people to seek expungement of their criminal record for most marijuana-related convictions.
The Legislature eventually can act on the decriminalization of marijuana, for which some lawmakers have voiced support. Other lawmakers have voiced support for more regulations on the medical marijuana industry.
The future of the industry now is in the Legislature’s hands, at least for the short-term. Lawmakers should take action on the criminal reform aspects of marijuana possession.
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