by Hunter Dublin | September 21, 2022
The Oklahoma Supreme Court decided to consider whether a question on the legalization of marijuana for recreational use should be put on the November ballot.
Sensible Marijuana Laws gathered enough signatures to qualify State Question 820 for a statewide vote. Still, it's unclear if there will be enough time to get the question printed on ballots before the general election on November 8. According to Oklahoma Election Board officials, the statutory cutoff date for calling a state question election for November was August 29.
In recent years, progressive policies for medical marijuana, like Medicaid expansion and lower criminal penalties for low-level drug and property crimes, have been implemented without the consent of the GOP-controlled Legislature.
Thanks to the use of Oklahoma's initiative petition process, which enables groups to amass enough signatures from registered voters to amend state law or even the constitution.
However, Republican legislators in Oklahoma have proposed legislation to make the initiative petition process more challenging, including a new law enacted in 2020 that requires greater scrutiny when authenticating voter signatures. Since then, a nationwide Republican Party effort has resulted in a wave of new voting rules that would restrict millions of Americans' access to the polls due in part to the false narrative of rampant election fraud in 2020.
Although the Oklahoma Secretary of State's Office traditionally handled signature counting in-house, this year's process entailed a contract with a business affiliated with a political polling firm to supply software and technical support to help validate the voter registration status of signatories. Supporters claim that as a result, a signature-counting procedure that usually takes two to three weeks took close to seven weeks to finish.
SQ 820's supporters wrote in a petition to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, "Since filing their initiative more than six months ago, advocates have done everything in their power to expedite cumbersome Oklahoma's initiative petition process can exercise their right to vote on the measure at the next general election. However, "state officials (or their hand-picked vendors) who are either unable or unwilling to discharge their administrative obligations in a timely and effective manner have stalled them."
A statement from the secretary of state stated that only signatories who were registered voters were taken into account due to the new law.
This new procedure, according to Bingman, "differs dramatically from the old practice of simply calculating the number of signatories on the petition without consideration to their voter registration status." The proponents and our office have been in frequent contact. We look forward to working with them and other interested parties to refine this new procedure further.
The governor could convene a special election, or the question would go on the ballot in November 2024 if the group fails in getting it on the ballot this year.
Approximately 10% of Oklahomans have state-issued medical cards that allow them to buy, grow, and use marijuana, making the state's medical marijuana program one of the most developed in the nation.
According to data from the Oklahoma Tax Commission, the current 7% excise tax on medicinal marijuana sales generates around $5 million yearly in state income. An additional $6 million is generated by state and local sales taxes.