The governor of Oklahoma may be against a state ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in his own state, but he also thinks that the federal government should finally repeal national cannabis prohibition laws.
Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) commented on the proposed statewide marijuana measure that officials had certified collected enough signatures for ballot access before a state Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday that will push it back to the next general or special election instead of going before voters this November as activists had intended.
He told the Associated Press that he doesn’t think legalization is right for Oklahoma. But notably, he supports federal reform.
“Do I wish that the feds would pass legalized marijuana? Yes. I think that would solve a lot of issues from all these different states,” Stitt said “But in our state, just trying to protect our state right now, I don’t think it would be good for Oklahoma.”
It’s not clear exactly what kind of issues he feels could be resolved with federal legalization, or what kind of regulatory model he supports at the federal level. But while he said earlier this year that he thought voters were mislead into approving an earlier medical cannabis legalization initiative in 2018, he has signed bills to regulate the market, and so his support for national reform might be linked to his understanding of ongoing industry challenges in his state under federal prohibition.
Marijuana Moment reached out to Stitt’s office for clarification, but a representative did not respond by the time of publication.
Michelle Tilley, campaign director for Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws / Yes on 820, said the confusing comments from the governor—who is up for reelection this year—show that “there is a reason we have the right to petition.”
“When our elected officials won’t change a law the people think should be changed, we petition to change it,” she told Marijuana Moment. “We have successfully petitioned for a vote to legalize recreational marijuana. Now State Question 820 IS going to a vote. The people of Oklahoma will decide. We hope that whoever the governor is in 2023, they will set this for a special election, regardless of how they might personally vote on the question.”
Tilley’s campaign collected enough signatures to put legalization on the Oklahoma ballot but faced a setback on Wednesday, with the state Supreme Court ruling against activists in their request to force the state to print ballots for this November with SQ 820 included. That’s because some state officials argued that they were past procedural deadlines to prepare ballots for mailing to overseas voters.
The court did shut down a total of four separate legal complaints against the measure that challenged the signature certification and ballot title, however, and it said the initiative will instead appear on the next statewide ballot.
OSML spent a significant amount of time in the state Supreme Court this election cycle. Hopes were raised after the court handed activists a temporary win last month by announcing that it would be delaying its decision on ballot placement, but it’s now delivered the final ruling.
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.
OSML, which is being backed by the national New Approach PAC, is one of two citizen efforts to put legalization on the ballot that launched this year. The other campaign, Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action (ORCA), did not end up collecting enough signatures, and one of its leaders filed legal challenges against the successful OSML effort.
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Oklahoma Rep. Scott Fetgatter (R) said in an op-ed for Marijuana Moment that was published in March 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.
Meanwhile, an Oklahoma Senate committee in April unanimously approved a House-passed bill to allow for the cultivation and administration of psilocybin by eligible institutions for research purposes—but the version that senators advanced omits a broader decriminalization provision that had previously been included. The legislation was ultimately not enacted before the end of the session.
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.