Oklahoma Becomes Latest Red State To Vote Against Recreational Marijuana Legalization


Voters in Oklahoma on Tuesday rejected a ballot initiative that would have legalized recreational marijuana in the state, becoming the latest in a string of red states to vote against such a measure even as 21 other states pressed forward with legalization in the past ten years.

Key Facts

State Question 820, which would have legalized the purchase and possession of marijuana for anyone of the age of 21 received more than 61.5% “No” votes.

The measure had faced strong opposition from the state’s Republican Governor Kevin Stitt, along with other GOP lawmakers, law enforcement, religious leaders and farmers’ groups.

Despite high-profile opposition to the measure, the legalization campaign had spent $4.9 million to promote the measure compared to $219,000 spent by the “no” campaign, the Associated Press reported.

Crucial Quote

After the results were called, Stitt tweeted: “Oklahomans rejected SQ 820. I believe this is the best thing to keep our kids safe and for our state as a whole…my administration will continue to hold bad actors accountable and crack down on illegal marijuana operations.”

News Peg

Despite the recreational use being voted down Oklahoma continues to have one of the country’s most liberal medical marijuana programs. Medicinal use of cannabis became legal in Oklahoma in 2018 after voters backed a ballot measure and since then the state has seen a surge in dispensaries and growing operations. Getting a medical marijuana card is relatively easy as the state does not limit its use to patients with specific medical conditions and doctor’s recommendations can be requested online. According to the Associated Press, approximately 10% of all adults in the state hold a medical marijuana card.

Big Number

12,395. That is the total number of commercial licenses that Oklahoma has issued to businesses for medical marijuana operations, according to official data. This includes 7,955 growers, 2,648 dispensaries, 1,669 processors and 123 transporters.

Key Background

Oklahoma is the latest red state to reject full legalization of marijuana even as support for the recreational use of the substance continues to grow across the country. During the midterm elections three other Republican-led states—Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota—rejected full legalization while voters in Maryland and deep-red Missouri voted in favor of it. In 2012, voters in Washington and Colorado were the first two states to approve the recreational use of marijuana and since then 19 other states and the District of Columbia adopted similar measures. A 2021 Gallup poll found that 68% of Americans supported legalizing marijuana, up from just 34% two decades ago. While legalization has had majority support from Democrats and Independents for a while, the 2021 poll found 50% of Republicans were also in favor of it compared to 49% who opposed it.

Further Reading

With a Marijuana Shop on ‘Every Corner,’ Oklahoma Rejects Full Legalization (New York Times)

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/siladityaray/2023/03/08/oklahoma-becomes-latest-red-state-to-vote-against-recreational-marijuana-legalization/