Blowing smoke

Recreational marijuana might not make the November ballot

State Question 820 is uncertain to reach the Nov. 8 general election ballot after the Oklahoma Supreme Court sent the petition to a 10-day waiting period. 

The petition, first submitted Jan. 4 this year by organizers from Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws, was designed with the intention to generally legalize, regulate, and tax adult-use marijuana under state law. Should the initiative become law, personal use of marijuana for persons aged 21+ would be protected by the state so long as quantity limits and safety standards are met. 

SQ 820 received over 117,000 signatures from Oklahoma voters, but was most recently delayed Aug. 30 when the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled to uphold the legislative procedures necessary for a state question to advance to the ballot. Proponents of the initiative had filed a request to circumvent Oklahoma’s new statutes for state questions, but were ultimately denied.

The 5-4 opinion sent SQ 820 to a 10-day process in which anyone can challenge various aspects of the petition such as its wording, constitutionality, and the authenticity of its signatures. 

The Oklahoma Farmers’ Bureau Legal Foundation applauded the decision for its “commonsense” in an Aug. 30 press release.

“The State Chamber Research Foundation Legal Center, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau Legal Foundation and the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association are pleased with the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s commonsense decision to uphold the state statute requiring a 10-day challenge period for all state question initiatives before advancing to the ballot,” the press release said. “This ensures the vital right of Oklahomans to petition the government through an initiative and maintains the integrity of the rules and procedures that all Oklahomans must play by, regardless of the subject matter.”

Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Dustin Rowe said given the opportunity he would have shelved SQ 820 altogether, saying it was too late to change ballots made to send early to service members overseas.

“Delaying this matter, which could culminate in changes to ballots which have already begun to be produced, undermines the Election Board’s capacity to fulfill its lawful obligation to voters and threatens the voting rights of portions of the electorate — particularly, our men and women serving in uniform overseas,” he wrote in a dissenting opinion.

The petition has traveled slower than other state questions in large part due to HB 2564, a February 2021 law that amended the process required for recounts on statewide issues or question elections. Additionally, the law required signatures to be counted by independently contracted certifiers. In the past, signatures were verified manually by state employees managed by the secretary of state. 

The most recent state question to reach an Oklahoman general election ballot was medicaid expansion, which carried nearly triple the signatures and only took 17 days to count.

Before the 10-day waiting period, SQ 820 underwent 48 days of certification, but despite the delays, campaign organizers for SQ 820 say they are optimistic for the petition’s future. 

“It appears the Court is giving itself the opportunity to order SQ 820 on the ballot if we survive the protest period,” Campaign Director Michelle Tilley said in an Aug. 30 press release. “We are confident that our more than 117,000 valid signatures will pass the 10-day protest period set by statute and are optimistic the Oklahoma Supreme Court will order State Question 820 on the ballot for the 2022 general election.”

At the end of the 10-day protest period, Oklahoma justices will decide whether or not to include SQ 820 on the November general election ballot. Until then, the petition’s fate remains uncertain.

For more information on SQ 820 visit

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