In just under two weeks, Oklahoma voters will get to decide if they want an even more accessible, consumer-friendly cannabis industry when they weigh in on State Question 820, which would legalize recreational marijuana, in addition to the state’s immense medical marijuana trade.
The state already has one of the loosest MMJ industries in the nation, with low barriers to entry for entrepreneurs, a liberal allowance of cannabis for essentially any medical ailment, and thousands of businesses that have sprung into existence since the market launch in 2018.
According to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority database, as of Feb. 17 there were 11,910 licensed medical cannabis companies, including growers, dispensaries, processors, transporters, testing labs, waste disposal facilities, education facilities, and research facilities.
But it’s still unclear what exactly voters will choose, since there hasn’t been much polling on the issue since November. That survey, by Amber Integrated and KOCO 5, found 49% of voters supporting the ballot question, with 38% opposed and 13% undecided.
In an email, Yes on 820 Campaign Director Michelle Tilley said there hadn’t been any new polling since then, but added she and campaign staff are “really inspired by the energy” they’re encountering as they canvas neighborhoods door-to-door.
While those polling numbers likely have cannabis advocates hopeful, it’s worth remembering that it’s a special election in an off-year, which tends to drastically lower voter turnout when compared to general elections held every two years in November.
Not only that, but there’s been a political backlash for several years now from many establishment conservatives to the wide-open MMJ market, which has led to allegations of increased crime. Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt has gone on record opposing SQ 820, as have several other prominent GOP leaders in the state, such as Attorney General Gentner Drummond. And former Republican Gov. Frank Keating is also now leading an opposition campaign.
At least one organized campaign has also emerged to oppose the measure – Protect Our Kids, Vote No on 820, 5News reported. The campaign has been telling voters that legal cannabis is a danger to youth and would exacerbate criminal problems created by the existing MMJ industry.
By contrast, the campaign to legalize – Yes on 820 – has been touting the potential tax revenue benefits to the state if voters approve the ballot question, which they say could be more than $820 million in the first five years of sales, according to a report from law firm Vicente Sederberg.
“This campaign is all about turnout. We are the only thing on the ballot,” Tilley wrote to Green Market Report in an email.
“We know that the majority of Oklahomans support legalizing, taxing and regulating recreational marijuana for adults. If that majority votes, we will win. If they stay at home, the minority of Oklahomans who oppose legalization will prevail,” Tilley wrote.
It’s also worth noting that the legalization movement has suffered multiple electoral setbacks in recent years, particularly on recreational marijuana questions. In November, three of five states that tried to legalize cannabis rejected recreational: Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota, each of which already have operational MMJ industries, and each of which are politically conservative.
Which means it’s still hard to say just yet what will happen on Election Night in Oklahoma.