Oklahoma activists are preparing to place a marijuana legalization initiative before voters this fall—and they may be facing the most difficult run yet.
Oklahoma activists have collected enough valid signatures to place a marijuana legalization initiative before voters. But numerous roadblocks and unnecessary formalities stand in the way of democracy and legal, recreational cannabis in Oklahoma.
The Roadblock to Legalization
After a year of collecting signatures, Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws (OSML) turned in 117,257 certified signatures to the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s office. OSML needed 94,911 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.
The initiative will now go before the state Supreme Court, which must review the signature counts and, if it signs off, there will then be a 10-day process in which members of the public can challenge the validity of the petitions.
Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said in a June letter that August 29 is the formal deadline for OSML to receive a gubernatorial proclamation of ballot status, but that in order to be considered for that deadline, bills must be submitted by the 26th at 5pm.
“This ‘practical deadline’ ensures that county election boards have time to prepare ballots to meet the 45-day deadline to send absentee ballots to military voters,” he wrote.
However, this deadline, which OSML calls “artificial” could be blocking the new cannabis law from appearing on the ballot this November. There is also a history of Oklahoma lawmakers pushing potential lawsuits against bills they don’t support, creating increased procedural delays.
In a bit of a surprise upset, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has decided not to take up the question of whether or not to place a medical marijuana legalization initiative on the November ballot. Instead, the court will wait until after the normal ballot placement process plays out before weighing in.
In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled it was assuming jurisdiction of the case and the dispute would be “held in abeyance because the time period for filing objections to either the signatures or the ballot title has not yet expired.” This means they aren’t ready to decide on the central question and will wait until after ballots are printed before deciding if they’ll take up the issue at all.
For now, this is good news for Oklahoman activists who want to see recreational marijuana legalized in their state—but it also raises questions about how state officials will react when it comes to preparing ballots in the meantime.
Hopefully, this means despite other government officials claiming the bill will not make the ballot, the Oklahoma Court is in favor of democratic processes.
The people of Oklahoma want recreational cannabis. The overwhelming majority of the state supports it, and more than enough signatures were collected to get it on the ballot. But a technicality may keep it off.
It is important to note the delay in signature count was due to counting being outsourced to a third-party company, and this is a big part of the reason the initiative may not make it onto the ballot. This is another situation of a state looking to thwart the will of the people and use technicalities as their justification.
They’ve collected enough signatures, and yet the OK government is still making up excuses and dragging their feet!
It’s an unacceptable affront against democracy and the will of the people.
Enjoyed that first hit? Come chill with us every week at the Friday Sesh for a freshly packed bowl of the week’s best cannabis news!