OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday set a statewide election for March 7 for voters to decide whether to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, a question Democrats had hoped would be on the November ballot to help energize liberal voters.
Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws gathered enough signatures to qualify the question for a statewide vote and thought the proposal would be on the ballot in November. But because it took longer than usual to count the signatures and for courts to consider legal challenges, there wasn't enough time to print the ballots ahead of the November election.
If approved by voters, the question would legalize the use of marijuana for any adult over the age of 21. Marijuana sales would be subjected to a 15% excise tax on top of the standard sales tax, and the revenue it generates would be used to help fund local municipalities, the court system, public schools, substance abuse treatment and the state's general revenue fund.
The proposal also outlines a judicial process for people to seek expungement or dismissal of prior marijuana-related convictions.
Oklahoma already has one of the most robust medical marijuana programs in the country, with roughly 10% of the state's residents having state-issued medical cards that allow them to purchase, grow and consume marijuana.
Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt said that while he supports the federal legalization of marijuana, he opposes the state question, saying the country's patchwork of state laws on marijuana has become problematic.
It's likely that a marijuana question on the ballot in November would have increased voter turnout in Oklahoma. About 892,000 voters cast ballots on the medical marijuana question in the June 2018 midterm primary election. By comparison, only about 528,000 voters cast ballots in the governor's race in this year's midterm primary election.
President Joe Biden's recent announcement that he will pardon thousands of people for simple marijuana possession has shined a new spotlight on legalization efforts. This year, voters in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota are considering measures on recreational marijuana.