Justices on the state’s Supreme Court ruled late yesterday that voters will not have the opportunity this November to decide on a ballot initiative (State Question 820) legalizing marijuana for adults.
In a unanimous decision, justices determined, “[I]t is not clear that Petitioners have a right to put SQ820 on the ballot at the next election held throughout the state,” even despite having met all of the state’s regulatory requirements and timelines. Justices concluded: “The statutory process cannot guarantee the availability of a particular election. … [Therefore,] there is no way to mandate the inclusion of SQ820 on the November 2022 general election ballot.”
The Court determined that voters will have to wait to decide the issue until either the next general election (in 2024) or until the Governor or the legislature calls for a special election. Republican Governor Kevin Stitt has said that he personally opposes legalizing marijuana for adults.
In July, advocates for SQ 820 turned in nearly twice the total of signatures necessary to qualify the initiative for the 2022 ballot. However, the Secretary of State’s office took an excessive amount of time to ultimately verify proponents’ signatures. Opponents of the measure then filed a series of questionable legal challenges litigating various facets of the campaign, including challenges to the initiative’s summary language. Although justices have now dismissed those challenges, they acknowledged that litigants can still file for rehearings — thus further delaying the process beyond the opportunity for state officials to include SQ 820 on this year’s printed ballots.
“Those who wish to perpetuate the failed public policy of cannabis criminalization have lost the hearts and minds of the American public. And they know it,” NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano wrote in a recently syndicated op-ed. “With public support for marijuana policy reform reaching super-majority status in recent years, prohibitionists and other political opponents have largely abandoned efforts to try and influence public opinion. Rather, they are now relying on gamesmanship to prevent voters from weighing in on the issue.”
He concluded: “In a healthy democracy, those with competing visions on public policy vie for voters’ support and abide by their voting decisions. However, it is becoming clear that those who oppose marijuana policy reform would rather take voters out of the equation altogether. Whether or not one personally supports or opposes cannabis legalization, these cynical and undemocratic tactics ought to be a cause of deep concern.”
Oklahoma’s proposed measure seeks to permit adults to legally possess and home-cultivate personal use qualities of cannabis while also establishing a licensed, retail marketplace. Those with past marijuana convictions, or those who are currently incarcerated for certain cannabis-related crimes, would be able to petition the courts for either record expungement or re-sentencing consideration.
Voters in Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and in South Dakota will decide on statewide ballot measures to legalize the adult-use marijuana market in November, and recent polling shows support for several of them. A proposed initiative in Arkansas remains in litigation.
For a detailed breakdown of 2022 ballot initiatives, please visit NORML’s Election Central.