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Oklahoma Part II: Two New Measures Going on Rec Ballot

Three ballot initiatives regarding cannabis in Oklahoma are in the works, equally significant for the Sooner State’s medical and recreational market

Here is what we know so far about Oklahoma (Click here for our previous article about Oklahoma Cannabis):

  • Oklahoma laid a foundation for a robust medical market (MMJ) since 2018.
  • As the state’s MMJ industry continues to grow, legislation tightens.
  • While laws or medical use passed in 2018 loosely allows consumption, it was initially on track for recreational use but was impeded by the Covid-19 pandemic.

This year, there are three ballot initiatives that may appear on the ballot in Oklahoma this fall on November 8, 2022:

  • Oklahoma Marijuana Legalization Initiative
  • Oklahoma Marijuana Legalization and Taxation Initiative
  • Oklahoma Cannabis Commission and Medical Marijuana Regulation Initiative

All these ballot initiatives revolve around two main measures:

  • Legalizing adult-use in Oklahoma for aged 21 and above while implementing a 15% retail sales tax
  • Revising and expanding the state’s medical cannabis program

OKLAHOMA MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION INITIATIVE (2022)

This initiative was filed by Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action (ORCA), which would legalize and regulated cannabis or persons 21 years old and older and would impose a 15% excise tax on sales for purchases by an individual without a medical license. ORCA filed multiple versions of the initiative: State Question 817 (October 7, 2021) and State Question 819 (October 28m 2021). Proponents withdrew SQ 817 on November 29, 2021.

SQ 819 is known as the Oklahoma Marijuana Regulation and Right to Use Act, legalizing possession up to 8 ounce of cannabis or those aged 21 and over. Adults are allowed to purchase at state-licensed retailers or home cultivate up to 12 plants.

Retail sales would be subjected to a 15 percent excise tax, and the initiative outlines several state programs that would receive partial revenue from the taxes, including water-related infrastructure, people with disabilities, substance abuse treatment, law enforcement training, cannabis research and more. In addition, this measure creates pathways for resentencing and expungements for cannabis-related convictions. SQ 819 seeks to phase out the 7% excise tax on medical cannabis and replace it with the planned 15% excise tax applied to all retail sales.

As this measure is a constitutional amendment, activists will need to acquire at least 177,958 valid signatures from registered voters to qualify for the ballot. Initiative 819 was challenged in the Oklahoma Supreme Court on November 5, 2021 and is on hold with the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s office until the challenge is resolved.

OKLAHOMA MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION AND TAXATION INITIATIVE (2022)

The group New Approach PAC has filed a separate initiative which also seeks to legalize cannabis, allowing adult use for 21 and older and similarly, impose a 15% excise tax on sales. Known as the Adult-use Marijuana Regulation Act, New Approach PAC filed two versions of the initiative, which vary: SQ 820 and SQ 821.

SQ 820 allows adults 21 and over to purchase and possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis and to grow up to 6 mature plants for personal use. A 15 percent excise tax would be imposed on adult-use products, with revenue going to an “Oklahoma Marijuana Revenue Trust Fund”, first to cover the cost of administering the program and the rest divided between municipalities where the sales occurred (10%), the State Judicial Revolving und (10%), the general und (30%), public education grants (30%) and grants for programs involved in substance misuse treatment and prevention (20%). Unlike SQ 819, SQ 820 says nothing about medical cannabis taxes and would not alter the state’s medical program. The current Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) would be responsible for regulating the program and issuing business licenses.

Q 821 is like SQ 820, but included a judicial process for people to seek modification, reversal, redesignation, or expungement of certain prior cannabis-related judgments and sentences. According to sponsor Michelle Tilley, “SQ 820 proposes a statutory change, not a proposed constitutional amendment. Marijuana policy is still evolving, and the Oklahoma legislature has shown it is ready to deal with issues as they arise. Whether it is a change in federal law or some yet unforeseen development in Oklahoma, lawmakers won’t have to amend the constitution to respond.”

As this proposal is statutory rather than constitutional, fewer signatures (94,911) are necessary to qualify it for the ballot. Initiatives 820 and 821 were challenged in the Oklahoma Supreme Court on January 24, 2022, and February 28, 2022 respectively, and is on hold with the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s office until the challenge is resolved.

OKLAHOMA CANNABIS COMMISSION AND MEDICAL MARIJUANA REGULATION INITIATIVE (2021)

Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action (ORCA) filed the Oklahoma State Question 818, also known as Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Enforcement and Anti-Corruption Act, aims to expand and revise the state’s medical cannabis program. This measure would create a new state agency, called the Oklahoma State Cannabis Commission (OSCC) to replace the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) and oversee all responsibilities specific to cannabis and hemp.

The act also seeks to replace existing excise taxes on medical products with a 7 percent retail tax, with the revenues used to support marijuana research, rural impact and urban waste remediation, agriculture development, mental health response programs, substance misuses treatment and more.

As this measures is a constitutional amendment, activists will need to acquire at least 177,958 valid signatures from registered voters to qualify for the ballot. Initiative 818 was challenged in the Oklahoma Supreme Court on October 18, 2021 and is on hold with the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s office until the challenge is resolved.

IS OKLAHOMA GETTING CLOSE TO RECREATIONAL CANNABIS?

In additional to these three initiatives, there are dozens of bills related to cannabis filed in the state legislature, to many of these are placeholder bills that will have the details filled in as the session progresses. Oklahoma’s legislative sessions kicks off on February 7th, 2022 and will run through May 27th, 2022.

While Oklahoma’s medical program is the most robust in the nation, adult-use remains subjected to strict punishments with activities involving sales or cultivation punishable up to life in prison. But seeing how these initiatives that have been filed, there’s a glimmer of hope that a recreational Oklahoma market is close, but not too close.

Stay tuned for our Part Three on Oklahoma!

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