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Recreational marijuana petition nearing signature goal as deadline draws closer

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In a staged photo, a student smokes a joint. A petition to put State Question 797, which would allow recreational marijuana in Oklahoma, on the November ballot is only 6,000 signatures away from its goal two weeks from the deadline.

Less than 6,000 more signatures are needed for State Question 797, a petition to amend the Oklahoma State Constitution to allow recreational marijuana, to make it to a ballot.

State Question 797 will allow anyone 21 years or over to legally possess, use, grow, process and sell marijuana and derivatives within the rules set by the Oklahoma Cannabis Commission. This initiative was filed with the Oklahoma Secretary of State on April 3, 2018. Signature collection began on May 11, and all signatures are due on August 8, 90 days later, to qualify for the November ballot.

While August 8 at 5 PM is the deadline for the submission of the petition, Green the Vote hopes to submit well before. The organization’s goal is to have all 124,000 signatures by August 1 to guarantee that all petitions can be inspected, counted and packaged in time for their single mass submission.

“I’m a hundred percent sure it’s going to make it to a ballot,” President of Green the Vote, Isaac Caviness said. “I have no doubt that we’re going to get the signatures to get it on the ballot. I was skeptical as to whether or not it would get a yes vote, but after the shenanigans that we’ve seen with 788, I feel very confident that we’re gonna get a majority vote on it when it goes to a vote of the people.”

The manipulation of state question 788 by banning smokable marijuana and requiring a physician at all marijuana dispensaries by the State Board of Health has inadvertently galvanized support to legalize recreational marijuana, Caviness said.

“What the Board of Health did, was they infuriated a half million people who voted yes on 788, and so that’s what you’re seeing with 797, the severe backlash towards the department of health," Caviness said. "We actually have people coming in to sign that petition who openly admit that they voted no on 788, but after seeing the way that the board of health is trying to basically dismantle 788 with the regulations, they’ve gotten upset and and they’re coming in and signing the recreational petition almost as protest to what the department of health has done to 788.”

State Question 797 would also require the first $40 million in revenue per year be credited to the public school construction assistance fund. Legalized recreational cannabis would also prevent people going to jail for cannabis and provide significant relief for the prison system. This would allow tax dollars to be redirected towards teacher salaries and other holes in the budget, Caviness said.

Despite the potential economic benefits, the petition still faces considerable opposition. The State Board of Health’s actions have spurred support from veteran advocates for cannabis as well as citizens angered by post-vote changes to an approved bill, but some Oklahomans still rail against the notion of legalized recreational cannabis, Caviness said.

“(State Question) 797 is for recreational, and recreational has a dirty name in Oklahoma,” Caviness said. “People are still scared of it. They haven’t had the education that a lot of people have had, and so our goal is making sure that people understand that the tax benefits that you get from cannabis are gonna come from recreational.”

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