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Oklahoma Not Going to Pot: Voters Reject Legalizing Recreational Marijuana

Oklahoma voters on Tuesday rejected the legalization of recreational marijuana, defying 21 other states that approved the step in the past decade.

Oklahoma would have joined conservative states like Montana and Missouri that have approved recent similar proposals.

Similarly many conservative states have also said no, including Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota last year, as the Associated Press reports.

Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt and many of the state’s GOP legislators, including nearly every Republican senator, opposed the idea. Former Republican Gov. Frank Keating, an ex-FBI agent, and Terri White, the former head of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, led the “no” campaign.

All of the opponents pointed to the medical downsides associated with recreational use as previously highlighted elsewhere.

“In Oklahoma, we already have more marijuana operations than California, Oregon and Washington combined,” Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., tweeted ahead of the vote. “That means more crime, more addition and harm to our neighborhoods.”

“We’re pleased the voters have spoken,” said Pat McFerron, a Republican political strategist who ran the opposition campaign. “We think this sends a clear signal that voters are not happy with the recreational nature of our medicinal system. We also think it shows voters recognize the criminal aspects, as well as the need for addressing mental health needs of the state.”

State Question 820, the result of a signature gathering drive last year, was the only item on the statewide ballot.

The question on whether those 21 years of age and older should be permitted recreational use of the drug was put before voters, with 61 percent saying “no” to the proposal, according to state election results.

“Oklahoma is a law and order state,” Stitt said in a statement after the vote. “I remain committed to protecting Oklahomans and my administration will continue to hold bad actors accountable and crack down on illegal marijuana operations in our state.”

He later outlined on social media just why he backed Oklahomans in their decision:

Oklahomans rejected SQ 820. I believe this is the best thing to keep our kids safe and for our state as a whole. I remain committed to protecting Oklahomans and my administration will continue to hold bad actors accountable and crack down on illegal marijuana operations. — Governor Kevin Stitt (@GovStitt) March 8, 2023

The proposal, if passed, would have allowed anyone over the age of 21 to purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana, plus concentrates and marijuana-infused products. Recreational sales would have been subjected to a 15 percent excise tax on top of the standard sales tax.

The excise tax would be used to help fund local municipalities, the court system, public schools, substance abuse treatment and the state’s general revenue fund.

The state narrowly legalized the medicinal use of marijuana in June 2018 when nearly 57 percent of voters approved of a ballot measure on issue. But recreational use of marijuana remained illegal.

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