OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma voters will decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana Tuesday in a statewide special election.
State Question 820 will be the only item on the ballot for most voters, although a few cities and counties will have local propositions up for a vote.
When a state question to legalize medical marijuana was on the ballot in 2018, Oklahomans turned out in droves during the primary election to support the measure.
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Voter turnout is expected to be lower on Tuesday, but how many people cast ballots could be the deciding factor in whether SQ 820 passes or fails.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voters are required to present a valid form of identification in order to cast a ballot. Early in-person voting has already occurred.
“We’ve known that a majority of Oklahomans support this,” said Michelle Tilley, head of the Yes on 820 campaign. “We’ve known that all through this process. But with this March special election, it really is just going to depend on who shows up.”
SQ 820 would legalize recreational marijuana for people age 21 or older. If approved, Oklahoma would be the 22nd state to implement an adult-use cannabis program open to Oklahomans and visitors to the state alike. The recreational marijuana program would operate alongside the state’s medical cannabis program.
Recreational marijuana purchases would be taxed at 15%, compared to the 7% tax levied on medical cannabis purchases.
About 10% of Oklahomans have obtained a medical marijuana card after getting a doctor’s recommendation and paying a fee. Recreational users could buy cannabis at a dispensary without a medical marijuana card.
Tax revenue from recreational marijuana sales would help fund the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, which would oversee implementation of SQ 820. Additional tax dollars would be divided among localities, schools, drug-addiction treatment programs, the state’s general revenue fund and the courts.
SQ 820 would also implement criminal justice reforms for nonviolent drug offenders that would set up a process for some people convicted of cannabis crimes to have their convictions reversed and their criminal records expunged.
Supporters and opponents of the state question made their closing arguments on the steps of the state Capitol on Monday.
A coalition of mental health professionals, law enforcement officers, district attorneys and educators gathered to warn that SQ 820 could make it easier for kids to get marijuana despite the age restrictions on sales.
“The last thing I want to see is a stoned society,” said former Republican Gov. Frank Keating, who leads the No on 820 campaign. “It makes no sense to me to open the floodgates and permit a substance as destructive to health, wealth and welfare as the legalization of recreational marijuana would be.”
Ryan Kiesel, a senior adviser to the Yes on 820 campaign, said thousands of campaign volunteers were out knocking on doors and making phone calls on Monday to remind people to go to the polls.
He said the opposition campaign is using “scare tactics” to try to to influence voters.
“Twenty-one other states have done exactly what we’re asking Oklahoma to do tomorrow,” Kiesel said. “Not a single one of them have ever gone back and said that was a bad idea.”
More than 34,000 Oklahomans cast early ballots leading up to the election. Just over 20,000 were Republicans, 11,000 were Democrats and close to 3,000 were independents, according to the State Election Board.
If passed, SQ 820 would take effect on June 5, which would give the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority time to prepare for its implementation and give lawmakers a few months to pass any laws necessary to create guardrails for the state’s recreational marijuana program.
Gov. Kevin Stitt on Monday signed legislation for the state to make an $850,000 appropriation to the State Election Board to help cover the costs of Tuesday’s election. The Election Board will pair the new funds with more than $300,000 in unspent cash to pay for the statewide election.
The last statewide initiative to pass in Oklahoma was the Medicaid expansion question in 2020.