On Tuesday, voters in Oklahoma rejected State Question 788 which was a measure that would have legalized recreational marijuana for adults older than 21. Similarly, in previous November elections, other states such as Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota also had similar measures for legalization which failed while citizens in Maryland and Missouri approved the use of recreational marijuana.
Advocates for marijuana legalization argued the need for the medical properties of cannabis and to stop sending people to jail over marijuana possession. Moreover, supporters claimed the benefits of tax revenues for the state’s budget from legalized marijuana. Opponents, however, said that the legalization would lead to young people abusing marijuana and hampering the efforts against the opioid crisis. They also said that the question was written too broadly and that there was no regulatory oversight in the proposed law.
An unusual dichotomy existed among conservatives regarding the issue. Governor Mary Fallin, for example, stated her opposition to the question but believed that it was going to pass, saying that the law was broad and could set up businesses that did not pay taxes. On the other hand, Republican Dustin Pyles stated that the matter was a matter of individual liberty, and that he trusted people to make their own decisions on marijuana and other issues.
Although the rejection in Oklahoma may become a blow to the state’s marijuana advocates, it is important to note that the legal sentencing for possessing marijuana in amounts larger than 1.5 ounces has been reduced in Oklahoma from prison time to fines if the possession is purely for personal use. Even though this possession is still illegal, it is becoming less of a criminal act and more of a civil penalty. This change illustrates the beginning of the move towards the flexibility of marijuana laws.
In conclusion, Oklahoma voters have rejected the legalization of recreational marijuana for adults aged 21 and over. In previous November elections, similar proposals in other states had also failed to be approved, while some states approved the use of recreational cannabis. The debate between advocates and opponents of marijuana legalization continues. Supporters argue for the medical properties of cannabis, tax revenues, and an end to jailing people for marijuana possession, while opponents argue the risk for abuse and a lack of regulation. Despite the rejection, Oklahoma has recently reduced legal sentencing for possession of marijuana and this shows the gradual move towards the flexibility of marijuana laws.