Oklahoma Supreme Court Says Marijuana Legalization Won’t Be on Ballot in November, But Will Be Enacted in Upcoming Election



Voters in Oklahoma won’t get a chance to vote on a marijuana legalization initiative in November, as the state’s Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed the campaign’s lawsuit that sought to secure ballot box placement this year .

However, the justices also dismissed two separate legal challenges to the ballot’s title, clearing the way for the initiative to vote in the state’s next general or special election.

While the secretary of state certified that activists had turned in enough valid signatures to qualify, officials said the campaign missed procedural deadlines for the 2022 election, prompting the lawsuit that was pending. consideration by the State Supreme Court for several weeks until this decision. .

Now, the court has formally denied the campaign’s request to compel the state to ask Question 820 on the upcoming ballot.

The judges wrote unanimously 9-0 opinion that the petitioners “cannot show they have a clear right to obtain SQ820 in the November 2022 general election ballot” under state law given time constraints and the fact that it there are still two legal complaints that need to be officially closed.

A total of four petitions were filed against the initiative during the 10-day challenge period – two challenging the signature certification and two calling for revisions to the ballot title and summary that the Attorney General of the state had provided for the campaign.

The court had already rejected the complaints related to the signature, then refuse requests for Wednesday’s new hearings. The judges also dismissed the summary language challenges, but claimants can still submit requests for rehearings by next week.

This possibility of rehearings “prevents this Court from fully resolving” the matter according to law, the opinion states. “That, in turn, prevents the secretary of state and the governor from taking their final steps” to put the initiative on the ballot this year.

Even if the court grants a new hearing and rules in favor of the petitioners, the remaining complaints do not seek to overturn the legalization of the ballot. Rather, the petitioners ask the court to order a review of the title because of what they identified as misleading omissions about what the measure would accomplish.

Applicants in one of the challenges— two of whom are affiliated with the Oklahoma Farm Bureau — attempted to argue that the wording of the ballot title did not sufficiently inform voters about five policy impacts of the proposal. For example, they said the lack of disclosure of under-21 decriminalization provisions and gun-related implications makes the title affirmatively misleading.

Luke Niforatos, CEO of Protect Our Kids PAC, said last week that he “partnered to make this challenge happen”. His organization was also involved in a lawsuit against a ballot measure on cannabis legalization in Missouri, but that state’s Supreme Court ultimately sided with the legalization campaign and allowed the initiative. .

The other complaint that the court dismissed on Wednesday came from cannabis activist Jed Green, who had previously failed to convince the court that State Question 820 violated the state Constitution’s single-subject rule for measures of vote and that the summary was misleading.

In his filing, Green — who ran a separate campaign that tried to legalize Oklahoma’s 2022 ballot before abandoning that effort — also argued that there were compromising omissions in the poll’s title, although that he underlined elements different from those cited in the other complaint.

Specifically, he said the title lacked three “fundamental” provisions of the law that would be enacted if voters approved the initiative: 1) that the legislature could always change the law if voters approved it, 2) that the fines for public consumption would be limited to $25 and 3) that medical cannabis dispensaries would need to obtain a second license to serve adult consumers and comply with these separate licensing requirements.

Again, the court determined in its rulings on Wednesday that the title was sufficient as is.

Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws (OSML) has spent a lot of time in the state Supreme Court this election cycle. Hopes were raised after the court gave campaigners a temporary victory last month by announcing it would delay its decision on ballot placement, but has now issued a final decision.

The judges ultimately agreed with officials, who had argued the campaign was in danger of missing ballot printing deadlines. OSML tried to argue that the deadlines were “arbitrary”.

A major controversy in the case was that the Secretary of State’s ballot verification process had been outsourced to a third party for the first time this year, and campaigners said the company had slowed down signature certification, potentially compromising their ability to meet the print deadline.

In a June letter, Oklahoma Board of Elections Secretary Paul Ziriax also said the governor should have issued an executive proclamation to officially certify any ballot initiative late last month. But supporters have pushed back against this interpretation.

The court has previously ruled that it will assume jurisdiction of the case – and that the dispute will be “put in abeyance because the time for filing objections to signatures or title to the ballot has not yet expired”.

Rather than simply making a ruling on ballot placement at that time, the court temporarily allowed the measure to go through the normal challenge process despite state officials arguing that key deadlines were already set. exceeded.

This is what cannabis legalization is initiative would have reach:

The measure would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis, grow up to six mature plants and six seedlings for personal use. The current Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority would be responsible for regulating the program and issuing commercial cannabis licenses.

A 15% excise tax would be imposed on adult-use marijuana products, with revenue going to an Oklahoma Marijuana Revenue Trust Fund.

The funds would first cover the costs of administering the program and the rest would be divided between the municipalities where the sales took place (10%), the State Judicial Revolving Fund (10%), the general fund ( 30 percent), public education grants (30 percent) and grants for programs involved in drug treatment and prevention (20 percent).

People serving a prison sentence for an activity made legal under the measure could “file a request for a new conviction, for the quashing of the conviction and for the dismissal of the case, or for a modification of the judgment and sentence”. Those who have already served time for such a conviction could also apply to the courts for expungement.

OSML, which is supported by the National New Approach PAC, is one of two citizen efforts to put legalization on the ballot that was launched this year. The other campaign, Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action (ORCA), was led by Green, the latest SQ 820 challenger.

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Governor Kevin Stitt (R) claimed in his State of the State address earlier this year that voters were misled when they passed an earlier 2018 initiative to legalize marijuana for medical purposes in the state, arguing that the measure may require legislative reform.

The governor said the ballot question passed by voters “was misleading and tied our hands as we regulate the industry.”

For his part, State Rep. Scott Fetgatter (R) said in an op-ed for Marijuana Moment that was published in March that states should legalize cannabis, but he wants to see the legislature craft thoughtful regulations for a program. intended for adults, rather than leaving it to voters during the ballot.

Meanwhile, an Oklahoma Senate committee in April unanimously approved a bill passed by the House to authorize the cultivation and administration of psilocybin by eligible institutions for research purposes, but the version put forward by the senators omits a broader decriminalization provision that had already been included. The legislation was ultimately not enacted until the end of the session.

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Photo elements courtesy of raw pixel and Philip Stefan.

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