Oklahoma Governor Says Voters Misunderstood Medical Marijuana Ballot Measure They Approved
The governor of Oklahoma said on Monday that voters were mislead when they overwhelmingly approved a 2018 ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana in the state, arguing that the measure may require legislative reform.
Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) said during his State of the State address that the ballot question passed by voters “was misleading, and it has tied our hands as we regulate the industry.”
He pointed specifically to the relatively low cost of obtaining a cannabis business license compared to other states. And without a cap on marijuana operators in place, he argued that the market has expanded at an unsustainable rate.
“Oklahoma charges just $2,500 for a commercial license,” he said. “Even California charges up to $181,00—72 times more,” Stiff said. “As a result, we have seven times the growers in California with just 10 percent of the people.”
While fees for California cannabis businesses can enter the six figures depending on the revenue licensees are receiving, the fee for a retailer making up to $500,000 in gross revenue is also $2,500. So it’s not quite as white-and-black as the governor is suggesting.
“Next door in Arkansas, they have eight growers. We have 8,300,” the governor said. “You know as well as I do that not all of that product is being sold legally. This is a perfect example of why we need to make sure initiative petitions represent Oklahomans and not out-of-state special interest groups.”
“Oklahomans deserve to know the details before voting to change our Constitution,” he said. “While we can’t change the past, we can learn from it and improve our future. We’re getting the right leaders in place and untying their hands to enforce the laws.”
Stitt said that he’s directed law enforcement to “crack down hard on the black market,” adding that “drug cartels, organized crime, foreign bad actors have no place in the state of Oklahoma.”
As lawmakers in other states, particularly those with conservative leanings, have begun discussing cannabis reform in the 2022 session, there have been repeated references to the Oklahoma experience, with certain policymakers citing it as an example of a regulated market that has expanded too far and too soon.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma marijuana activists filed another marijuana legalization initiative last month that they hope to place before voters on the 2022 ballot.
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The campaign is being supported by the national New Approach PAC, which has been behind a number of successful state-level reform initiatives.
A separate group of local activists also filed initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana and remodel the state’s existing medical cannabis program in October
Two Republican Oklahoma lawmakers are also looking into broader drug policy reform, recently filing bills meant to promote research into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin, and one of the measures would further decriminalize low-level possession of the psychedelic.
Oklahoma activists had previously attempted to qualify a legalization measure for the 2020 ballot. They filed a petition to legalize cannabis for adult use in December 2019, but signature gathering fell short due in part to procedural delays and the coronavirus pandemic.
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Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.