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Oklahoma Marijuana Activists Launch TV Ad And Knock On Doors To Build Support For Legalization Ballot Measure

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Oklahoma activists are stepping up their push to raise voter awareness of an initiative to legalize marijuana that will appear on the state ballot next month, with new ads and door-knocking efforts.

With just weeks before the special election on March 7, the Yes on 820 campaign is making sure that people know what’s at stake. A pair of 15- and 30-second ads that recently launched explain the basics of the legalization measure and urge voters to “vote yes” at the ballot.

“Get the facts about State Question 820. The law will regulate and tax marijuana for adults 21 and up,” the longer ad says. “It has strict safety requirements for labeling, childproof packaging and quantity limits to keep us and our kids safe.”

“Plus, it will generate millions for schools and health care and free up police resources to focus on serious violent crime to make our communities safer,” it continues. “It’s working in other states. It’s time for Oklahoma.”

A campaign spokesperson told Marijuana Moment that the spot has been running on digital platforms so far but will begin airing on cable and broadcast television as of Tuesday.

Meanwhile, advocates are also hitting the streets for grassroots work to tell voters individually about the initiative, which Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) formally placed on the special March ballot in October after the campaign ran into procedural problems getting it on last November’s general election ballot and ultimately did not prevail in a lawsuit in which they wanted the state Supreme Court to put the measure up for a vote last year.

This is the first time in U.S. history that voters will go to the polls in a special election to decide solely on a marijuana measure. Nothing else is on the March 7 ballot.

“This is a unique election in that SQ 820 is the only thing on the ballot; there are no other candidates or campaigns,” Michelle Tilley, campaign director for Yes on 820, told Marijuana Moment. “We know the majority of Oklahomans support SQ 820 and the legalization of recreational marijuana for adults over 21. What we don’t know is who will turn out to vote. That’s why we are working every day to contact thousands of voters and reminding them to vote on March 7.”

Yes on 820 also released a report at the beginning of the month that shows Oklahoma stands to generate nearly half a billion dollars in revenue from adult-use marijuana sales in the first five years of implementation if voters approve the reform.

Here’s what the cannabis legalization initiative would achieve: 

The measure would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis, grow up to six mature plants and six seedings for personal use. The current Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority would be responsible for regulating the program and issuing cannabis business licenses.

A 15 percent excise tax would be imposed on adult-use marijuana products, with revenue going to an “Oklahoma Marijuana Revenue Trust Fund.”

The funds would first cover the cost of administrating the program and the rest would be divided between municipalities where the sales occurred (10 percent), the State Judicial Revolving Fund (10 percent), the general fund (30 percent), public education grants (30 percent) and grants for programs involved in substance misuse treatment and prevention (20 percent).

People serving in prison for activity made legal under the measure could “file a petition for resentencing, reversal of conviction and dismissal of case, or modification of judgment and sentence.” Those who’ve already served their sentence for such a conviction could also petition the courts for expungement.

Activists collected enough signatures to qualify legalization to go before voters last year and had anticipated it would happen in November. But they faced a setback when signature verification took longer than expected and state officials said there was not enough time to print and mail ballots for overseas voters with the cannabis question included.

The court did shut down a total of four separate legal complaints against the measure that challenged the signature certification and ballot title, however.

The governor doesn’t support adult-use legalization—though he did say last year that he thinks the federal government should end prohibition to “solve a lot of issues from all these different states” that have legalized cannabis.

He also said last year that he thought voters were misled into approving an earlier medical cannabis legalization initiative in 2018.

Oklahoma Rep. Scott Fetgatter (R) said in an op-ed for Marijuana Moment that was published last year that states should legalize cannabis, but he wants to see the legislature craft thoughtful regulations for an adult-use program, rather than leave it to voters at the ballot.

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Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

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