Anti-pot campaigners were on Wednesday celebrating their win against a better-funded adversary — dubbed ‘big cannabis’ — after Oklahomans soundly rejected plans to legalize recreational weed in the state.
‘s Gov.Kevin Stitt, anti-marijuana campaigner Kevin Sabet and others praised the results of the ballot initiative on Tuesday, which saw voters by 61.7 percent to 38.3 percent derail the legalization effort.
Sabet, a former drugs tsar who now heads the Smart Approaches to Marijuana campaign, called the victory a win for ‘ and common sense’ despite the spending power of the $32 billion cannabis sector.
‘The industry cannot Buy Hawaiian Runtz Online votes and profit off our kids,’ said Sabet.
‘Despite being vastly outspent [campaigners] worked tirelessly to educate voters about the unintended consequences of legalization, ranging from more incidents of impaired driving and workplace accidents to higher youth use rates.’
Oklahoma voters have joined Alabama and North and South Dakota in their rejection of plans to legalize recreational weed
A cannabis dispensary in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where adults with a medical marijuana license can stock up
The ‘no’ side of Sabet and others was outspent more than 20-to-1, with supporters of the initiative spending more than $4.9 million, compared to about $219,000 against, last-minute campaign finance reports show.
Stitt, a Republican, said that rejecting the ballot initiative known as 820 was the ‘best thing to keep our kids safe’ and he vowed to ‘hold bad actors accountable and crack down on illegal marijuana operations.’
Oklahoma would have become the 22nd state to legalize adult use of cannabis and join conservative states like Montana and Missouri that have approved similar proposals in recent years.
Still, Oklahoma joins the list of red states that have recently pushed back against the wave of legalization — last year, voters in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota rejected their own legalization ballots.
Gov.Stitt was joined by many Republican legislators and nearly every GOP senator to oppose the idea. Former Republican Gov. Frank Keating, an ex-FBI agent, and Terri White, a former Oklahoma drugs and mental health chief, led the ‘no’ campaign.
Oklahoma voters in 2018 approved medical pot by 14 percentage points and the state has one of the nation’s most liberal programs, with more than 2,800 licensed dispensaries and roughly 10 percent of adults licensed to buy and use the drug.
‘The industry cannot buy votes,’ says Kevin Sabet
State Question 820, the result of a signature gathering drive last year, was the only item on the statewide ballot, and early results showed heavy opposition in rural areas, with every county in the state rejecting the idea.
The proposal, if passed, would have allowed anyone over the age of 21 to buy and possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana, plus concentrates and marijuana-infused products, such as gummies.
Recreational sales would have been subjected to a 15 percent excise tax on top of the standard sales tax.The excise tax would be used to help fund the court system, schools, substance abuse treatment and other public coffers.
The low barriers for entry into Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry has led to a flood of growers, processors and dispensary operators competing for a limited number of customers.
James Smith, President of the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police, spoke at a rally against legalizing pot earlier this month as part of a last-minute push by religious and police groups
A vendor displays marijuana flowers at a dispensary in Oklahoma City, which has been deluged by stores for medical marijuana in recent years
The above shows cannabis use across American states.Twenty-one states and DC have legalised it for recreational use in addition to medicinal use, Loose Leaf Blunt Wraps 0d 0a while nearly all now allow it to be used for medicinal purposes.
Supporters had hoped the state’s marijuana industry would be buoyed by a rush of out-of-state customers, particularly from Texas, which has close to 8 million people living nearby across the Oklahoma border.
Michelle Tilley, campaign director for Yes on 820, said despite the result, full marijuana legalization was inevitable.She noted that almost 400,000 Oklahomans already use marijuana legally and ‘many thousands more’ use it illegally.
‘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,’ she said in a statement.
The US legal cannabis market netted $26.1 billion in sales last year and is on track to reach $44.5 billion in sales by 2027, driven by the huge markets in California, New Jersey, and New York, according to research firm BDSA.
Sabet said the results were ‘against the odds’ given ‘how deep the tentacles of the marijuana industry has gotten’ in Oklahoma, which has more medical pot dispensaries than Colorado — famed for its burgeoning cannabis sector.
Pat McFerron, a Republican political strategist who ran the opposition campaign, said the results were a ‘clear signal that voters are not happy with the recreational nature of our medicinal system.’
‘It shows voters recognize the criminal aspects, as well as the need for addressing mental health needs of the state,’ added McFerron.
Voters in Maryland and Missouri in November approved election ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana, pushing the number of states with such laws to 21 — even as it remains illegal under federal law.
Experts have cautioned against America’s speedy switch to legalized pot, amid a growing body of evidence that widespread availability leads to increased use, particularly among young people, together with addiction and mental health issues.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) annual survey last August found the number of under-30s using marijuana hit record levels in 2021 — which the agency’s boss Dr Nora Volkow called a ‘concern’.
The $32 billion cannabis industry argues that taking the drug — either smoking it, vaping it or as an edible — can help relieve feelings of anxiety or depression, chronic pain, and even help fight addictions.
The US Cannabis Council, a major lobbying group, says legalization is widely supported, that pot is safe and can help addicts beat opioid and alcohol dependency.
But in states where pot has been legalized, many parents say their children have been sucked into an addiction spiral.