News 9 - March 8, 2023 7:02 am


Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly say no to recreational marijuana. This vote comes five years after voters approved medical marijuana.

People on both sides are passionate about this issue and some even held watch parties while they waited for the results.

State Question 820 failed by about a 62% to 38% margin.

“We are obviously pleased with the results. We think this sends a clear message that Oklahomans oppose the unfettered access to marijuana we have experienced under our so-called medical program. Voters clearly want to protect our children, crack down on organized crime, and improve the mental health of those in our state,” Pat McFerron, Protect Our Kids NO 820.

Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado said legalizing recreational marijuana would have increased homelessness, mental health issues, addiction, and crime.

“We have an addiction problem in this country. Tulsa, Oklahoma is no different. The state of Oklahoma is no different. In fact, we continue to break records in overdose deaths and we’re going to make it easier for the addict to have drugs? We’re going to enable the addict and yet they’re gonna tell you that the money made from 820, they’re going to help with addiction, education, things like that. It’s incredible the things that they’re saying,” said Sheriff Regalado. “What do addicts do when they run out of the ability to obtain drugs the legal way. They burglarize, they rob, they steal and a lot of times those property crimes turn into Part 1 crimes. Murder, assaults, and we’ve seen it in downtown Tulsa.”

The Sheriff said mental health is a huge concern and would be an even bigger concern had the issue passed.

“There is a direct correlation between drug use and crime obviously, but more importantly the correlation between mental health and drug use is, I think, the most important factor people need to realize because we are having a mental health crisis across this country and the fact is we’re doing everything to increase mental health, that mental health crisis, but we’re doing nothing to treat it,” said Sheriff Regalado.

He said based on what we’ve seen with medical marijuana, and with recreational marijuana in other states, the economic benefit wouldn’t be what’s been promised.

Sheriff Regalado said marijuana now is much more potent and Oklahoma already has more grow operations than California.

“[T]here will be no economic boom to the state of Oklahoma because if that were the case then cities like Los AngelesSeattlePortland, you name it, the large cities across the country that have passed similar legislation, marijuana legislation, they’re all in budget deficits. So, this idea that it’s going to solve or boost the economy is ridiculous at best,” said Sheriff Regalado.

He said it puts children in danger and legalizing recreational marijuana would lead to more impaired drivers.

“That’s been the difficulties that we’ve already experienced with medical marijuana is that, how do you quantify intoxication? Now we have DRE experts that are able to tell that you’re under the influence of marijuana and then you’ve got to get a blood test and then you’ve got to quantify how many, and I think it’s in milliliters I’m not sure in measuring what the level of intoxication is with you,” said Sheriff Regalado.

On the other side, many voters in favor of State Question 820 believed the 15% tax would have generated millions of dollars in new funding for things like schools, health care, and public safety.

They said it included new rules and regulations like product testing and child-proof packaging.

Supporters said the state’s resources could be better focused elsewhere and 820 would’ve balanced personal freedom with responsible regulation.

“Our mission from the very start has been about making a more prosperous, just and safer state. We are moms and dads who want more revenue in our schools, more resources for law enforcement, and more jobs and investment in communities across the state. Unfortunately, tonight we fell short,” said Campaign Director Michelle Tilley, Yes on 820. “We didn’t get State Question 820 across the finish line tonight, but the fact remains that marijuana legalization is not a question of ‘if;’ it’s a question of ‘when.’ There are almost 400,000 Oklahomans – that’s almost ten percent of our population – using marijuana legally; there are many thousands more using marijuana acquired off the illicit market. A two-tiered system, where one group of Oklahomans is free to use this product and the other is treated like criminals does not make logical sense. Furthermore, the cost in lost revenue and lives disrupted by senseless arrests hurts all of us. We will continue to advocate for change, and we are confident that, sooner rather than later, change will come, as it has in 21 other states.”

Fitz Jennings is a SQ820 supporter and said there is a solid structure for supporters to build on in the future.

“This is really important that, if not now, sometime in the future we get that access and provide safe and fair cannabis laws and jobs,” said Fitz Jennings, SQ820 Supporter. “[I]t’s not ‘if’ but ‘when,’ right? So, the hope would be that Oklahoma would get ahead of the curve and work take advantage as early as possible and get a good regulatory set up for eventual federal legalization,” said Fitz Jennings, SQ820 Supporter.

He believes the points brought on by the no campaign were misdirects and said those are regulatory issues.

“Those problems that they’re addressing, they exist now with our current, frankly, underregulated medical marijuana system. So, adding more access, adding further legal structures will just be more impetus for the legislature and other bodies to get ahead and regulate this thing properly. So, more access does not mean less regulation,” said Jennings.

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond sent us the following statement: “I’m proud of Oklahomans for rejecting the expansion of organized crime by defeating State Question 820. Regardless of where one stands on the question of marijuana legalization, the stark reality is that organized crime from China and Mexico has infiltrated Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry. I will continue to focus on this serious threat to public safety by targeting the illegal grow operations throughout our state.”

Governor Kevin Stitt also sent a statement in support of SQ820 not passing: “Oklahomans rejected State Question 820. I believe this is the best thing to keep our kids safe and for our state as a whole. Oklahoma is a law-and-order state. 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.”


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