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Recreational marijuana question won't make Nov. 8 ballot

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Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws delivered over 164,000 signatures to the Office of the Secretary of State at the Oklahoma State Capitol on July 5, but State Question 820 will not appear on the November ballot.

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to order that an initiative petition seeking to legalize recreational marijuana be put on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The court said State Question 820 could not be printed on ballots in time to comply with the deadline for mailing them to absentee voters.

The State Election Board said the internal deadline for printing the ballots was Aug. 26, according to the court’s order. In addition, other statutory requirements must be met, the order states.

State Question 820 “will be voted upon by the people of Oklahoma, albeit either at the next general election following November 8, 2022, or at a special election set by the Governor or Legislature,” the order states.

The initiative petition process got bogged down after legislators passed a law that required the Secretary of State’s Office to verify signatures in addition to counting them, the order said.

Supporters of the measure had asked the court to order that the measure be put on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

The order said supporters diligently prepared the measure for the Nov. 8 ballot.

“Delays in the process were caused by the Secretary of State’s ‘learning curve’ associated with the use of the new software and by the filing of four statutorily allowed protests,” the order states.

“Of course we are disappointed that the court did not grant our request to place SQ 820 on the November 2022 ballot,” said Michelle Tilley, campaign director. “It is disappointing that a few people with their own political interests were able to use the process to prevent voters from voting on this in November.

“However, we cannot lose sight of how far we have come. This is a big deal. Now the petition phase has finished, and Oklahomans will be voting to legalize recreational marijuana here, and we can soon realize all the benefits it will bring to our state.”

The measure would legalize, regulate and tax cannabis production for adults 21 years old and older. It also would provide criminal justice reform and expungement for low-level marijuana offenses.

“We started this effort in 2019 and have faced a global pandemic, rival initiatives, an extremely fast signature gathering effort, shenanigans from government officials and challenges from corporate political special interests,” said Ryan Kiesel, senior campaign advisor.

With the hard work of those who gathered the signatures, supporters have helped make the voices of Oklahomans heard, Kiesel said.

Voters in 2018 legalized the use of medical marijuana by approving State Question 788.

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While marijuana and hemp are the same plant (cannabis) federal law makes a distinction between marijuana, which is grown for high THC content, and hemp, defined by its low content. But since congress passed the 2018 farm bill authorizing the growing of hemp nationwide, there's been an unforeseen consequence. People exploiting what they see as a loophole in the law have taken hemp, extracted a non-intoxicating compound called CBD and chemically altered it into various types of impairing THC. Chemically derived THC has wound up in candies, vape oils and other products sold in gas stations, convenience stores and online. At least 17 states have banned such products in the past year. Regulators in Michigan are considering rules that would allow processors to convert CBD into THC with written prior approval. They also would have to label their product as synthetic.

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