Oklahoma activists have withdrawn a marijuana legalization ballot initiative and replaced it with one that contains revised language designed to ensure the state’s medical cannabis program is unaffected.
The development comes weeks after the campaign first submitted a proposed ballot 2020 legalization measure to the secretary of state. While most provisions remain intact from the original version, the amended initiative includes explicit protections and benefits for medical cannabis businesses and patients—some of whom expressed concerns about the first draft.
The measure, which is being backed by a coalition of local reform organizations as well as the national advocacy group New Approach PAC, would allow adults 21 and older to possess, cultivate and purchase cannabis from licensed retailers. Individuals could possess up to one ounce and cultivate up to six plants and six seedlings.
While a 15 percent excise tax would be imposed on sales, the latest initiative—which was filed with the secretary of state’s office on Friday—specifies that the tax would not apply to medical marijuana. Revenue from the adult-use sales would go toward implementation costs, public schools, drug treatment programs and other public service programs.
Under another new provision, only existing medical cannabis businesses would be eligible for recreational licenses for the first two years after implementation.
“The new ballot initiative strengthens the language of the previously filed initiative to ensure that we are crystal clear that this program does not adversely affect the current Oklahoma medical marijuana industry or its patients,” campaign spokesperson Michelle Tilley said in a press release. “While we did not foresee any issues with our original language, we are strong supporters of Oklahoma’s medical marijuana programs and we felt it was worthwhile to eliminate any uncertainty.”
“Since medical marijuana became legal in Oklahoma, not only have thousands of Oklahomans benefited as patients, many Oklahomans have invested their own money in building businesses. Those businesses have in turn created good jobs throughout the state. This new program will expand access for all adults over 21 in Oklahoma, while protecting the existing medical marijuana program and those who need medical marijuana as patients.”
In order to qualify for the state’s 2020 ballot, activists must collect about 178,000 valid signatures from registered voters within 90 days after approval from the secretary of state.
Oklahoma voters approved a ballot measure to legalize medical cannabis in 2018. The program has been very popular, with nearly 5 percent of the state’s population registered as approved patients.
The state’s Medical Marijuana Authority, which regulates that market, would be renamed the Oklahoma Marijuana Authority under the new measure and would be tasked with setting the rules for the adult-use program under the measure.
“An overwhelming majority of Oklahomans from across the political spectrum support reforming the marijuana laws in Oklahoma,” Ryan Kiesel, a proponent of the question, said. “The time has come to build a system of reasonable regulations that invests millions in education and health care.”
Also on Friday, a separate marijuana legalization proposal that includes no age limit on use or specific tax rate was filed by a different activist.
Read the full text of the revised Oklahoma marijuana legalization ballot measure below:
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.