Oklahoma activists file cannabis reform initiatives for the 2022 ballot

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

On Thursday, October 7, cannabis lobbyists in Oklahoma submitted a pair of recreational cannabis measures for the 2022 ballot. If approved and enacted into law, adult-use cannabis legalization would ensue, before the state’s current medical cannabis program is remodeled.

In order to push things in the right direction, the initiatives have been sent to the secretary of state’s office. This integral step lays the foundation for a suggested constitutional amendment to be approved via a signature-gathering process.

In late September, members of the pro-cannabis lobbyist group Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action (ORCA) declared that they had almost finished drafting the language for both initiatives a step that was made possible when the group requested feedback from numerous industry proponents and shareholders.

According to the director of the ORCA, Jed Green, each cannabis legalization proposal is designed to repair flaws that have surfaced in Oklahoma’s medical cannabis market, all the while ensuring that the industry is able to flourish with recreational legalization. 

“[The initiatives] will give Oklahomans the opportunity to keep the success and clean up the mess,” said Green.

What is included under Oklahoma’s recreational cannabis legalization proposal?

Adults aged 21 and above would be legally allowed to possess a maximum of eight ounces of cannabis, so long as the cannabis is purchased from a licensed retailer. In addition to this, they could possess any cannabis that they grow at home for personal use, but adults who grow at home would be subjected to a 12-plant cap.

As per the first initiative, a 15 percent excise tax would be imposed on all cannabis sales in Oklahoma. Cannabis taxes – which would initially cover the implementation costs – stand to benefit numerous programs.

Listed below are some examples of the ways in which adult-use cannabis tax revenue would assist the local community according to the first measure:

  • Water-associated infrastructure
  • Disability assistance
  • Law enforcement training
  • Substance misuse treatment
  • Cannabis research 

In addition to this, the first measure establishes a method by which people who have previously been convicted of a cannabis-related crime/felony could receive expungements and/or resentencing.

Conversely, the second measure would result in the formation of the Oklahoma State Cannabis Commission (OSCC). This commission would be tasked with providing oversight for every aspect of the state’s legal cannabis system. A seven percent excise tax would temporarily be imposed on cannabis sales.

Listed below are some examples of the ways in which recreational cannabis tax revenue would assist the local community according to the second measure:

  • Agriculture development
  • Cannabis research
  • Rural/urban waste remediation
  • Mental health programs
  • Substance misuse treatment programs

Moreover, Oklahoma’s second adult-use cannabis initiative pushes for a gradual reduction in medical cannabis taxes, with the primary goal of medical cannabis taxes being lowered to zero percent within the program’s first year of enactment. 

Existing medical cannabis dispensary owners are optimistic about the second proposal, since it means that they would be allowed to sell cannabis products to the recreational market within 60 days of the bill being effectuated.

Both of Oklahoma’s adult-use cannabis initiatives would be constitutional amendments

For either of Oklahoma’s adult-use cannabis initiatives to be enacted into law, activists would first need to gather a minimum of 177,958 valid signatures from registered voters. Anything less than this amount would not qualify for the ballot.

A previous attempt to get a cannabis legalization measure featured on the 2020 ballot was unsuccessful. The failed effort saw Oklahoma lobbyists file a petition to legalize the plant for adult-use purposes in December 2019. Unfortunately, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and procedural delays resulted in the signature-gathering process being hindered.

Notwithstanding the unlucky attempt to legalize recreational cannabis in 2019, medical cannabis was legalized the year prior by means of a successful ballot vote. Although the newly-introduced adult-use cannabis proposals would feature on the 2022 ballot distinctively from one another, activists consider the measures complementary.