Tired of politicians meddling in state questions, an advocacy group is working toward a vote for a constitutional amendment allowing Oklahomans to use marijuana recreationally or medically.
Green the Vote, a group that was unsuccessful in previous years with multiple initiative petitions seeking legalization of medical marijuana, will cast a wider net with petitions to legalize recreational marijuana and medical marijuana separately. The group plans to file the two petitions March 30 at the state Capitol to begin signature gathering.
Isaac Caviness, president of Green the Vote, said the group wants a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana so legislators would be unable to meddle with the laws.
“Oklahoma’s constitutional amendments can’t be changed or even made a constitutional amendment without going before a vote of the people,” Caviness said. “And that’s the biggest protection that we have … against our lawmakers changing it to what they want versus what the people want.”
He said they want to gather enough signatures to get the initiatives on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Caviness, who said some points of the petition still need to be fine-tuned, declined to provide the Tulsa World a copy of the petition ahead of the filing.
Green the Vote in the past advocated for legalization of medical marijuana. Caviness said the group is now introducing an amendment for casual or recreational use after reflecting on the state’s revenue shortfalls and incarceration of nonviolent offenders related to marijuana offenses.
Caviness said, should the casual use amendment pass, that the first $100 million in revenue is earmarked for teachers. Medical marijuana, he said, generates comparatively little in tax revenue, he said.
Medical marijuana brought in about $9 million in tax revenue for Colorado in 2013. In 2014, the state’s first full year of legalized recreational marijuana, $63 million was collected in tax revenue for medical and recreational marijuana sales, with an additional $13 million collected in licenses and fees, according to the Washington Post.
A separate measure, the State Question 788, seeks to legalize medical marijuana. Voters can weigh in on that statutory initiative during the primary election June 26.
Sen. Ervin Yen, R-Oklahoma City, submitted a bill that would have legalized medical marijuana and limited the scope of SQ 788. The bill died amid concerns that it would have pre-empted a vote of the people, but when it was brought back up March 15 it passed in a Senate vote.
SQ 788, if approved by voters, would permit doctors to recommend a patient who is at least 18 years old for a state-issued medical marijuana license. As the measure language states, a license holder would be allowed to legally possess up to 3 ounces of the drug, six mature plants and six seedlings.
Last year, Scott Pruitt, during his time as the state’s attorney general, came under fire for rewriting SQ 788’s title. He ultimately lost that fight.
In February, Rep. John Enns, R-Enid, proposed a constitutional amendment that would increase the number of signatures for initiative petitions and require a minimum number of signatures be obtained in each county. Enns said it is an “effort to allow the rest of the state,” or rural voters, to have a say in the initiative petitions. Those petitions, regardless of rule changes for signatures, would be subject to rural votes.
Enns specifically referenced recreational marijuana when discussing the bill in February. Not much has happened yet with that bill, House Bill 1603.
Caviness referenced these incidents when emphasizing the need for a constitutional amendment. For a constitutional initiative, Green the Vote will have to gather more than 124,000 signatures for the initiative to appear on the ballot.