Friday, July 19, 2024

Oklahoma to Vote on Recreational Marijuana

'SQ 820 throws a match into the middle of what already is a powder keg in rural Oklahoma...'

(Headline USAOklahoma voters will decide Tuesday whether to approve a ballot measure that legalizes recreational marijuana.

Oklahoma already has one of the most liberal medical marijuana programs in the country, with roughly 10% of the state’s adult population having a medical license.

Unlike most other states, Oklahoma has no list of qualifying medical conditions, allows patients to get a recommendation from a doctor online, and gives licenses that are valid for two years.

People in the industry say Oklahoma’s low barrier to entry led to thousands of licensed growers, processors and dispensary operators competing for a limited number of patients. While inflation is causing the cost of many products to go up, marijuana prices at dispensaries have plummeted, and many operators are going out of business. A website for cannabis-related sales shows thousands of Oklahoma grow operations and dispensaries up for sale.

“They allowed for a free-market cannabis industry, and that’s what everyone wanted, but now we need more customers,” said Chip Baker, a grower who also runs a marijuana garden supply shop in Oklahoma City. “There needs to be an influx of people here to buy this product. It’s just simple math.”

While many in Oklahoma’s cannabis industry are eager for recreational sales, opponents include a group of clergy, law enforcement and prosecutors led by former Republican Gov. Frank Keating, an ex-FBI agent. Current Gov. Kevin Stitt and nearly all the Republicans in the Oklahoma Senate also have announced their opposition.

Opponents cite an increase in the amount of Oklahoma marijuana being exported out of state and sold on the black market, as well as criminal activity associated with some marijuana grows, including the execution-style slayings of four Chinese nationals at an illegal marijuana farm in rural Oklahoma.

“SQ 820 throws a match into the middle of what already is a powder keg in rural Oklahoma,” said Logan County Sheriff Damon Devereaux, president of the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association.

If approved, Oklahoma would be the 22nd state to legalize cannabis and likely the most conservative, following defeats of similar proposals in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota last year.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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