OUR VIEWPOINT: Vote ‘No’ on State Question 820 for a better future in Oklahoma
Most times, we prefer that voters do the research and make up their own minds about matters they must vote on.
But in our view, this time is different — because there is very little good that will come of State Question 820 being passed by voters on Tuesday.
The polls open Tuesday across the state on State Question 820, which would legalize adult-use recreational marijuana in Oklahoma. Adults over the age of 21 years old would be able to purchase marijuana products for recreational use from licensed sellers. SQ820 would allow individuals to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana, 6 mature marijuana plants, and 6 seedling plants.
The state question also creates a licensing process for recreational marijuana dispensaries, commercial growers, processors, and transporters, and it directs the state to create rules for the preparation and labeling of marijuana products within 90 days after becoming law.
The state would impose a 15% excise tax on each sale, with surplus revenue going to student services, drug addiction treatment programs, courts, local government, and the state General Revenue Fund.
Private landowners and businesses would be allowed to prohibit or regulate the use of marijuana on their property, or during the course of employment. SQ820 would not change current medical marijuana laws and regulations.
In addition to marijuana legalization, the law creates a pathway for courts to resentence, reverse, modify and expunge certain prior marijuana-related conviction records. It also prohibits prosecutors from revoking bail, parole or probation because of marijuana use.
See our recent article explaining both sides of this measure.
We certainly sympathize with those who need better access to marijuana for medical reasons, which State Question 788 addressed, although somewhat poorly.
But we honestly cannot understand how approving 820 is going to improve lives for most Oklahomans. As a state, we are still reeling from the effects of poor implementation and regulation of 788. The state has more than 6,000 marijuana grows and has been called by one national media outlet as the kingpin of the black market for marijuana.
Not good press for a state that wants to be Top 10 in so many things.
For further evidence why this state measure is potentially destructive, look at what is happening on our streets. Teens and adults are being sickened or killed at the hands of fentanyl-laced drugs. Children are already under a lot of temptation from unscrupulous drug dealers.
The poorly regulated marijuana trade has, according to law enforcement, brought new levels of prostitution, sex, illegal drug dealing and human trafficking and organized crime into the state.
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Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics spokesman Mark Woodward says a recent investigation focused on the activities of an Asian organized crime network that provides criminal services for several medical marijuana farms in Oklahoma. “Our investigation has uncovered evidence of sex trafficking linked to the recruitment of undocumented Asian females for the purpose of engaging in prostitution that caters to managers and administrators of numerous marijuana farms around the state,” Woodward says.
Woodward says this criminal organization also has been linked to the trafficking of Ketamine, which is used as a recreational street drug. OBN Director Donnie Anderson says OBN is actively investigating numerous criminal organizations linked to medical marijuana farms across Oklahoma.
“Over the past two years, my agency has shut down over 800 medical marijuana farms tied to organized crime in Oklahoma, seized more than 600,000 pounds of illegal marijuana and made nearly 200 arrests,” Anderson says. “Many of the farms obtained their license by fraud, grow for the black markets around the United States and launder the illicit proceeds, world-wide. They also have been linked to homicides, labor trafficking, sex trafficking, and other crimes.”
Given this, the suggestion by organizers that SQ820 is “really about criminal justice reform” or will “make our streets safer” is extremely disingenuous.
At some point, we must convince people to be more responsible about their life choices, rather than give in to the siren song of recent social justice movements that seem to favor a society that is soft on crime.
We wholeheartedly support efforts to help cancer patients, veterans and others in need to obtain medical marijuana through appropriate access. But normalizing marijuana use in adults is not good for our state or our families.
It’s time for the “death creep” of reckless, poorly-thought-out marijuana legislation be put to bed in Oklahoma.
For that reason, we suggest voters say “NO” to SQ820 on Tuesday.