Oklahoma voters in March rejected the legalization of adult-use cannabis by a wide margin, despite having one of the largest and fastest-growing medical cannabis industries in the country.
According to results from the Oklahoma State Election Board, 61.67% of voters said no to state Question No. 820, with every county rejecting the measure.
The vote on recreational cannabis stands in stark contrast to the 2018 vote that created the state’s medical system in 2018, which passed 57% to 43%. Since that vote, Oklahoma’s industry has exploded with more than 12,500 total licenses issued and total sales hovering around $100 million per month (including $106.9 million in February 2023) with more than 400,000 Oklahomans registered as patients.
“We’re definitely disappointed in the failure of State Question No. 820,” said Kalin Bellmard, interim executive director of the Oklahoma Cannabis Industry Association.
Bellmard said he believes “misinformation” and “confusion” led to the measure’s rejection, noting that because it was the only question on the March 7 ballot, the turnout for the vote was low, leading to a “small portion” of voters deciding the measure.
State Question No. 820 would have legalized adult use and sales and created a 15% excise tax on recreational use sales, above applicable sales taxes. Excise tax revenues were stipulated to fund implementation of the law, with any surplus revenues going to public school programs to address substance abuse and improve student retention (30%), the General Revenue Fund (30%), drug addiction treatment programs (20%), courts (10%), and local governments (10%). It also would have established a process for expungement of marijuana-related offenses.
According to Bellmard, changes to the state’s ballot initiative process following the medical cannabis vote mean that another measure regarding legalization cannot be put in front of voters until 2026, though he said the OCIA would continue to advocate for the industry, calling it a matter of when, not if.
“We just have to fight harder to ensure we retain our legitimacy,” he said.