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Oklahoma Voters Reject Cannabis Legalization at the Ballot Box

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Mar 08, 2023   
Cannabis buds in a jar.

Image credit: iStock

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Voters in the state of Oklahoma have decisively rejected the option of a legalized recreational cannabis market.

The state held its “cannabis election” on Tuesday, March 7, which gave residents the chance to support or oppose legalizing adult-use cannabis for anyone aged 21 or over.

According to the election tracker Decision Desk HQ, voters in the state rejected the proposal by a margin of 61.7% to 38.3%.

Since 2018, Oklahoma has had one of the loosest and largest medical cannabis sectors in the US. The state has nearly three times (2,877) as many licensed cannabis dispensaries as California (roughly 1,000), despite having a tenth of that state’s population.

Some of the “no” campaigners in the recent election cited this extensive medical marijuana sector as a reason to oppose any further cannabis legislation.

“We’re pleased the voters have spoken,” Pat McFerron, a Republican political strategist who ran the opposition campaign, told the Associated Press.

“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.”

The “cannabis election” was first proposed by state advocates who gathered enough signatures to get the proposal on a ballot. The Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws group submitted more than 164,000 signatures (95,000 are required to qualify for a ballot) to the Oklahoma Office of the Secretary of State back in July 2022.

Advocates had hoped the legalization question would be posed during the US November mid-term elections, but the ballot was delayed to March 2023, reportedly to allow time for state courts to consider legal challenges.


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