Yesterday, Oklahoma's conservative heartland delivered a powerful statement against marijuana legalization. In Tuesday's special election, voters in the state overwhelmingly voted down an adult-use measure for recreational cannabis consumption.
Tuesday’s failed attempt to legalize recreational marijuana in Oklahoma comes after its legalization succeeded in Missouri last November, while similar measures missed the mark late last year in Arkansas and the Dakotas. The green light has been turned on for cannabis consumers across Missouri who now have access to adult-use sales.
Oklahoma voters painted a decisive picture against the measure on Election Day, with an impressive showing from both rural and urban areas - despite reports of low turnout, only about 25% of Oklahoma voters.
In the Oklahoma special election, a mere 13,851 voters placed their ballots absentee ballots compared to 71,000 in November's general election. Furthermore, the 34,403 early votes consisted primarily of voters who rejected the measure, a staggering 21 849.
Tuesday's disappointing results could signal the start of a statewide movement to limit Oklahoma's innovative medical marijuana program. Industry stakeholders worry that their cannabis business will be adversely affected by potentially increased restrictions on medicinal use in the state, such as limiting THC content.
Jeffrey M. Zucker, vice chair of the board at the Marijuana Policy Project, a national legalization advocacy group, and co-founder and president of Denver-based cannabis consultancy Green Lion Partners said, “Today’s decision in Oklahoma is heartbreaking, especially considering how many challenges this bill faced before it got to the ballot and how much work advocates put in.”
Zucker went on to state, “We have a long way to go to undo the damage of the war on drugs, especially in a state where more than 4,500 people are arrested annually for cannabis possession."
Despite coming up short in the Oklahoma vote on State Question 820, Michelle Tilley of the Yes On 820 campaign has vowed to continue her efforts for marijuana legalization. In a statement, she expressed confidence that it’s only a matter of time before cannabis is legalized in the state: “We didn’t get State Question 820 across the finish line tonight, but the fact remains that marijuana legalization is not a question of ‘if;’ it’s a question of 'when.'"
On Tuesday, the citizens of Oklahoma made history by casting their ballots on a measure to legalize recreational marijuana - believed to be the first time in America that cannabis legalization was the only measure on the ballot.
Last summer, the pro-legalization campaign claimed that the state had purposefully hindered their efforts to advance a referendum by missing an essential deadline. The lawsuit suggested this delay was part of an effort to prevent legalization from being put on last year's ballot.
After a rocky legal battle, Oklahoma's voters were given the chance to decide on Question 820 during the special election. The state Supreme Court has chosen not to intervene in Gov. Kevin Stitt's decision, which moved forward the voting date and gave Oklahomans the power to have their voices heard on this controversial state issue.