Oklahomans Debate State Question 820 On Recreational Marijuana

If Oklahomans vote in favor of state question 820 dispensaries would be able to sell to anyone over 21. The group hoping that question 820 passes says the state will make more than $821 million in tax revenue alone from 2024 to 2028, over $164 million a year. 

Friday, February 3rd 2023, 5:20 pm


Oklahomans are nearly a month out from a long-anticipated election. With the recreational marijuana vote just weeks away, those behind the push said hundreds of millions of tax dollars are up for grabs.

The group behind the effort, "Yes on 820," said they want voters to know how much is at stake before they turn in their ballots.

Those who hope the question fails said no amount of tax revenue will make them vote to legalize recreational weed.

Throughout Oklahoma, weed is never far from reach if someone has a medical card.

"In Oklahoma we have more marijuana dispensaries than we have gas stations," Director of Oklahoma Faith Leaders Paul Abner said. 

If Oklahomans vote in favor of state question 820, those dispensaries can sell marijuana to anyone over the age of 21. 

"Since we filed 820 the legislature places a moratorium in the number of licenses. There will be no new licenses happening for at least two years so whoever has a license now they will be the ones that'll be selling recreational marijuana if they want to" Yes on 820's Campaign Director Michelle Tilley said.

Tilley said the state will rake in more then $821 million in tax revenue alone from 2024 to 2028 with an average of over $164 million a year. 

"That's taking into account our current medical program but also the 15% (tax) that will come from recreational marijuana. It's a huge number that's brand new money," Tilley said.

Vicente Sederberg LLP coupled with the Oklahoma Cannabis Industry Association collected the data and made the projections for the economic impact of recreational marijuana. They used federal, and local data along with data from other states who added a recreational industry. The tax money collected from the 15 percent tax on recreational weed will first go back into the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority and any excess will be divided up between the the community the sales happened in (10 percent), the General Fund (30 percent), courts (10 percent), schools for anti-drug and student retention programs (30 percent), addiction treatment programs (20 percent).

The entire industry is expected to jump to a more than $4 billion industry by 2028 before it levels off. 

"The plateau is still rather gigantic. We still have tens of millions of dollars coming in," Tilley said.

But those against the question, like Abner, don't believe the additional tax revenue will make a dent in black market industry.

"It will help but i don't know. That's already gotten out of the barn , that that's going to be tough to over come," Abner said.

He also said even though people drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes and even medical marijuana in the home, the added the recreational element is unnecessary risks.

"I wouldn't say any of those are great but adults do those types of things. I don't like the fact that there will be a chance for more of that to happen in the state." Abner said.

"As a mother there are a lot of harmful substances in your home. Household cleaners, alcohol, and it's a parents's responsibility to keep their kids safe," Tilley said.

What it comes down to, said Paul, the financial gain isn't worth the moral cost

"Just about anything that is out there we are one of the leaders in the nations when it comes to addiction so we have to be careful with these things," Abner explained.

A point both sides are cognizant of, the roll out of the medical marijuana industry and State Question 788.

"Yes on 820" said it has learned from the medical industry's mistakes. 

"Part of the beauty of State Question 820 is that we allow the legislature to change the things that we need to change as this industry grows an we understand how it works in Oklahoma," Tilley explained.

 While the group opposed, "Protect our Kids, No SQ 820' said as it stands, Oklahoma basically has recreational marijuana now. "If Oklahomans had known what they were getting into they wouldn't have voted for that ," Abner said. 

The vote will take place on March 7. 

Click here for a link to the report.


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