A petition to legalize recreational marijuana in Oklahoma is picking up steam. The measure was filed with the Oklahoma Secretary of State on December 12th by two Oklahoma City residents, Vanessa Brandon Avery and Amy Young.
State Question 806 illustrates what could become Article 31 of Oklahoma’s Constitution. It would allow anyone 21 years or older to use marijuana recreationally, provided they do not drive under the influence.
The proposal also says that anyone serving a sentence for a marijuana-related offense (even those who pleaded guilty) would be permitted to file a petition for resentencing, reversal of conviction and dismissal of their case, or modification of their sentence. However, those petitions will be opposed if the person filing poses a risk of danger to themselves or society.
The Amendment creates a 15% tax on recreational marijuana sales (not applicable to medical marijuana) paid on top of any other applicable state and local sales tax. The proposal creates the Oklahoma Marijuana Revenue Trust Fund, which the sales tax from recreational marijuana would feed.
Of that trust fund, 4% of the monies would go to the municipalities where the sale occurred; 48% would go to grants for public schools to create programs designed to “prevent and reduce substance abuse and improve student retention and performance” as well as add to alternatives to suspension and after-school programs for kids in grades K-12; the other 48% would be used for local non-profits to “increase access to evidence-based low-barrier drug addiction treatment.”
The State Board of Equalization would examine and investigate the appropriations made from the trust fund each year.
The proposal adds, “The legislature may adjust this [15%] excise tax rate after November 3, 2024 to achieve the goals of undercutting illicit market prices and discouraging use by persons younger than twenty-one years of age while ensuring sufficient revenues are generated for the Oklahoma Marijuana Revenue Trust Fund.”
The petition suggests the Current Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (which operates under the State Department of Health) be renamed simply the Oklahoma Marijuana Authority. That body would have the power to “license and regulate the cultivation, manufacture, testing, transport, delivery, and sale of marijuana.” The Amendment also states that body has to get moving on licensing within 365 days of the article’s effective date.
Under SQ806, local governments would have the choice of whether to allow marijuana facilities or dispensaries in their jurisdictions, as well as control the time periods and areas they would be permitted to operate.
Employers would still be able to restrict the use of marijuana by employees, and landlords could still prohibit their tenants from smoking weed (though the proposal states “a lease agreement may not prohibit a tenant from lawfully possession and consuming marijuana by means other than smoking.”)
Provisions like the ones allowing employers and landlords to restrict marijuana use have earned SQ806 some backlash from other groups who support the legalization of recreational cannabis but in a different form. One group, Oklahomans for Cannabis, wrote, “The more we learn about SQ806 the more we don’t like it.”
Another group, “Let’s Nix SQ806” is hosting a protest against the proposal on Friday, January 3rd. The organizers of that group’s Facebook page wrote, “Ryan Kiesel describes the entity supporting SQ806 as a ‘Public Interest’ when it is in fact funded by corporations and private equity firms such as Privateer Holdings. Do you really think these guys have the public’s interest in mind? We don’t. #KillSQ806”
The number of signatures needed for an initiative to qualify for a ballot in Oklahoma varies from year to year. As Ballotpedia explains, constitutional amendments require 15% of the number of votes cast for governor; state statutes require 8% of gubernatorial votes; veto referendums take 5%, and previously rejected measures take 25%. That means this petition will need 177,958 signatures. Anyone who signs must be legally registered to vote in the State of Oklahoma.
Groups in Oklahoma have made the case for recreational cannabis before. State Question 797 earned 132,527 signatures.” In 2018, when those signatures were gathered, it would take 123,725 names on the petition for an initiative to be included on the ballot. So the number accumulated for SQ797 should have been enough to appear on a ballot but failed to do so because of “procedural requirements
That attempt was also very well-thought-out, addressing not only the legalization but also the taxation of recreational cannabis. The proposal suggested people 21 years or older could consume or possess only limited amounts of marijuana, regulated in ways similar to the alcohol industry. Its writers also brought up the need for licensed manufacturing and testing facilities and retail stores regulated by local governments. The ballot never specifically mentions marijuana being used for recreational purposes, instead simply referring to the use, possession, sale, and distribution in general. It also forms a plan for how to use tax profits:
“The general assembly [would] enact an excise tax to be levied upon wholesale sales of marijuana; requiring that the first $40 million in revenue raised annually by such tax be credited to the public school capital construction assistance fund; and requiring the general assembly to enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp.”
In conjunction with that petition, State Question 796 hoped to reclassify marijuana as an “herbal drug regulated by the Oklahoma Cannabis Commission.” Any marijuana with less than 0.3% THC would be reclassified as “industrial hemp.” In that proposal, the plan was to use 75% of excess tax income from sales for the Oklahoma State Department of Education, and 25% for the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
Both State Questions 797 and 796 were promoted by the group Green the Vote. Wikileaf has not been able to confirm whether the two people who filed State Question 806 have any connection or affiliation with that group.
If the State Question 806 petition gets enough signatures to make it onto the upcoming ballot and passes there, it would be signed into law. However, recreational marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, which supersedes local law.
The Stash reached out to the people behind State Question 806 but did not hear back.