Oklahoma Voters’ Chance to Legalize Marijuana Postponed From November Ballot

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma issued an opinion rejecting a request for a writ of mandamus requiring the state to print a state question that would legalize, regulate and tax  recreational marijuana  on the ballot of the November 8 general election. 

According to the opinion, the petitioners, Michelle Tilley Nichols and Michelle Jones, are proponents of Initiative Petition No. 434, State Question No. 820 (Question 820). On January 4, the petitioners filed Question 820 which, if approved by voters, would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana used recreationally by adults through the enactment of new laws. 

The opinion states that the petitioners gathered the required signatures and delivered them to the Secretary of State on July 5, nearly a month before their August 1 deadline. Further, the opinion states that due to recently enacted laws, the Secretary of State is required to verify the signatures for initiative petitions for the first time this general election year. This new process had drastically impeded the process to get Question 820 on the November ballot. 

Accordingly, the petitioners filed this action on August 22, asking the court to assume original jurisdiction and to issue a writ of mandamus requiring the state to take all necessary actions that would ensure Question 820 makes it to the upcoming November general election ballot. The petitioners argued that Article V, Section 3 of the Oklahoma Constitution requires that all elections on measures referred by the people be at the next election held throughout the state. 

However, the court was not persuaded by the petitioner’s argument and reliance on the Oklahoma Constitution. In the opinion the court found that there are several statutory provisions that the petitioners failed to comply with in order for Question 820 to be placed on the ballot. 

Specifically, the court states that there is a possibility of rehearing two of the public protests to Question 820 which in turn would prevent the Secretary of State and Governor from meeting their statutory deadlines. Therefore,  the court denied the petitioners’ writ of mandamus commanding the State Election Board to include Question 820 on the ballot. However, the court did state that Question 820 will be voted upon by the people of Oklahoma in the following General Election or at a special election.