Second Petition to Legalize Cannabis Proposed in Oklahoma


The new year has brought a second bid to legalize cannabis in Oklahoma.

A petition to get a legalization initiative on the state ballot for Oklahoma this year was filed to the local secretary of state’s office on Tuesday, according to The Oklahoman newspaper.

The latest campaign is being driven by an Oklahoma woman named Michelle Tilley, who spearheaded a failed effort to get a legalization initiative on the state’s ballot in 2020.

“This is an effort that started several years ago but has grown,” Tilley told the newspaper in an interview. “We have a broad coalition of Oklahomans—small business owners, small growers, users and criminal justice reform people, as well.” 

The paper reported that the proposal “details a framework for adult-use cannabis, seeks to impose a 15 percent excise tax on recreational cannabis sales and includes a criminal justice element that would make the new law apply retroactively, which would allow some drug offenders to have their convictions reversed and records expunged.”

The upshot is that voters in Oklahoma could see two cannabis legalization measures on the ballot come November. 

That is because a separate petition to legalize pot was filed with the Oklahoma secretary of state back in October. 

Filed by a group called Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action, the first proposal is similar to the one brought by Tilley and company.

Both would legalize weed for adults ages 21 and older, and both would levy a 15 percent tax on cannabis sales and both contain social justice provisions that would pardon and expunge previous low-level pot convictions.

“A lot of this is stuff that has been advocated for by a lot of folks in the community and industry over the last three years, and I don’t see it’s going to make it through the legislative process any time soon,” Jed Green, an organizer of Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action, said at the time his group’s petition was filed.

“Until we pass recreational (marijuana legalization) we will not be able to truly bring stability to our program. Legalization prevents diversion,” he continued. “Folks have been and are going to use marijuana. Have been for decades. It is in the best interest of our state to get ahead of the curve on this issue. We must put this issue to rest.”

But there are some notable distinctions between the two campaigns, as The Oklahoman explained.

Perhaps most significantly, Tilley’s proposal, which would appear on the ballot as State Question 820, “proposes statutory changes to existing state law,” and if it were to be approved, “the governor and state lawmakers could modify the recreational marijuana laws through the legislative process,” according to The Oklahoman.

The proposal offered up by Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis, by contrast, would amend the state constitution and, thus, could only be further changed by voters.

The Oklahoman reported that Tilley’s campaign has won the support of “New Approach PAC, which is based out of Washington, D.C., and has spent millions supporting marijuana legalization campaigns in other states.”

Green said that his campaign has been driven by Oklahoma voters.

“Our effort is the homegrown effort, and this petition (SQ 820) is the corporate cannabis effort,” he told The Oklahoman.

The newspaper laid out the state of play for both campaigns. 

“The signature requirement to qualify constitutional petitions for the statewide ballot is nearly double that of statutory changes,” according to the report. “Supporters of SQ 819 will have to collect 177,957 signatures in 90 days, whereas proponents of SQ 820 will have the same time period to collect 94,910 signatures to qualify for a statewide vote.”

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