Politics

Election 2023: Oklahoma marijuana legalization guide

Published on September 19, 2022 · Last updated February 28, 2023

All about SQ 820, Oklahoma’s cannabis legalization initiative

In the early autumn of 2022, Oklahoma’s secretary of state confirmed that State Question 820 (SQ 820), a statewide measure to legalize the adult use of marijuana, had enough signatures to qualify for the Nov. 8, 2022, ballot.

Legalization advocates turned in enough signatures to make the ballot, but a contractor hired by the state to count the signatures did not meet the deadline for the Nov. 8 election.

As a result of the state’s error, SQ 820 did not appear on the Nov. 8 ballot, but instead will appear on the March 7, 2023 statewide ballot.

Read the full 16-page proposal here: State Question 820.

Is this medical or adult use legalization?

Adult use (recreational). Marijuana would be legal for all adults age 21 and older.

What’s the current law?

Medical marijuana has been legal in Oklahoma since voters passed a previous measure in June, 2018. Cannabis remains illegal for those without a medical card.

Related
Oklahoma marijuana laws

What the initiative would do

Oklahoma’s proposed statewide initiative would legalize cannabis for all adults age 21 or older. Other highlights include:

  • Adults would be legally allowed to possess up to one ounce of cannabis, up to 8 grams of cannabis concentrate, and up to 8 grams of cannabis concentrate infused in an edible or beverage.
  • Non-medical marijuana products would be subject to a 15% excise tax.
  • Medical marijuana products would not be subject to the excise tax.
  • The measure would create a judicial process for people to seek redress for certain prior marijuana-related judgments and sentences.
  • Home growing would be allowed, to a limit of 6 seedlings and 6 mature plants per person, with a limit of 12 seedlings and 12 mature plants per private residence.

How do I vote in Oklahoma?

This is important: Verify your registration status and ID validity right now, while there’s still time to bring both up to date.

Vote in person, on paper ballots, on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. Polling stations will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. statewide. Click on this link to find out where to vote in Oklahoma. You must vote in the county where you are registered.

Remember: You must bring valid ID in order to vote. Here is a list of valid forms of ID in Oklahoma.

Early voting is available for the March election.

You can vote early in your county at your designated early voting location from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the Thursday and Friday preceding an election. 

Absentee ballots must be requested at least 15 days prior to election day. That deadline has passed, so it’s not possible to request an absentee ballot at this time for the March 7, 2023 election. Check the state website to see the rules.

What’s required to pass legalization?

In Oklahoma, a “state question” must only gather a majority of votes cast in a statewide election. In other words, 50.01% approval will pass it.

Possession would become legal for all adults on or near Tuesday, June 6, 2023. The proposal specifies that the rules contained in the approved initiative would become effective 90 days after voters approve it.

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How much can I possess?

If 820 passes, adults 21 or older may possess up to one ounce of cannabis flower, up to 8 grams of cannabis concentrates, and up to 8 grams of cannabis concentrates contained within an infused product (food or beverage).

It’s unclear. SQ 820 makes it clear that the state (in the form of the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority) will be required to post the rules and regulations for a legal adult-use system no later than June 6, 2023.

The initiative contains no absolute deadline for store openings. In theory, legal weed stores could open as soon as late June, 2023. That’s unlikely. If the measure passes, look for recreational weed stores to open in 2024.

Who will operate the stores?

For the first two years of legal adult-use sales, retail sales licenses will be issued only to operators of state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries that have been in business for at least one year as of Feb. 8, 2023.

Who’s regulating and issuing licenses?

The existing Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA), which currently regulates MMJ dispensaries, will expand to become the state regulator for adult-use cannabis as well.

Can I open a weed store?

Between now and Feb. 6, 2025, the answer is no—unless you already operate a state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary.

The good news is that once the state opens up adult-use cannabis licenses to new companies, those applications and licenses will be relatively inexpensive. SQ 820 caps the fee for an application and a license at $2,500. Which is a lot less than some other states charge.

What are the penalties for underage use?

SQ 820 contains a clause that sets the penalty for underage (under 21) possession or use as a $100 fine, with the option of attending four hours of drug education or counseling in lieu of the fine.

What are the penalties for possessing more than one ounce?

If you’re over weight (possess more than one ounce of cannabis flower), you will be subject to a $200 fine—but only if the possession weight is two ounces or less.

It’s unclear what the penalties for holding more than two ounces would be, but presumably tougher than a $200 fine.

Can I grow my own?

Home growing would be allowed under the provisions of SQ 820. Each adult would be able to grow up to six seedlings plus six mature plants in or around a private residence. There would be a total limit of 12 seedlings and 12 mature plants at any private residence, regardless of the number of adult occupants.

The plants must be “not visible and recognizable as marijuana by normal, unaided vision from a public place.” In other words, you’ve got to shield it from public view, whether that’s with curtains, a fence, whatever.

Home growers whose plants are determined to be publicly visible could be subject to a fine of up to $250.

When could I start growing my own?

Seeds in the soil on or near June 6, 2023. The measure’s homegrow rules take effect 90 days after voters approve SQ 820.

Could I smoke a joint in public?

No. Smoking or vaping cannabis in public would be penalized by a fine of up to $25, but not arrest.

What about gun ownership protections?

SQ 820 contains a clause that protects the rights of gun owners to legally purchase and enjoy cannabis.

Any other protections?

Yes. Oklahoma’s SQ 820 contains a forward-thinking provision that protects a parent’s right to enjoy cannabis responsibly, without risking the loss of their children.

The measure says: “A person shall not be denied custody of or visitation or parenting time with a minor child, and there is no presumption of neglect or child endangerment, for conduct that is addressed and permitted by this Act, unless the behavior of the person creates an unreasonable danger to the safety of the minor child.”

Leafly has investigated and documented the harm visited on parents and children by state child welfare agencies, who have penalized law-abiding adults and ripped apart families due to an adult exercising their right to consume cannabis legally.

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Legalization initiative sponsors

Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws are the leading advocates in Oklahoma, and they are heading up the Yes on 820 campaign.

Legalization initiative opponents

Early challenges intended to keep SQ 820 off the November ballot (they failed, it’s on the ballot) have been led by the Luke Niforatos, head of the prohibitionist Protect Our Kids PAC.

Niforatos partnered with a handful of locals, some of whom (according to the public-interest journalism site Oklahoma Watch, below) are affiliated with the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, the state’s powerful agriculture lobbying organization.

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Bruce Barcott
Bruce Barcott
Leafly Senior Editor Bruce Barcott oversees news, investigations, and feature projects. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.
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