Gov. Mary Fallin has placed State Question 788 — which would legalize medical marijuana in the state of Oklahoma — on the June 26 primary ballot.
Fallin’s action was announced shortly after 3 p.m. today.
“Backers of this proposal to legalize medical marijuana followed procedures and gathered the more than 66,000 required signatures to submit the issue to a vote of the people,” Fallin said. “I’m fulfilling my duty as governor to decide when that election will occur this year.”
Political observers have argued that placing the measure on the November 2018 general election ballot could have provided a boost to Democrats and their gubernatorial candidate. Longtime Attorney General Drew Edmondson and former state Sen. Connie Johnson (D-OKC) are competing for the Democratic nomination after Rep. Scott Inman (D-Del City) ended his gubernatorial campaign abruptly in October. Johnson has campaigned for medical marijuana previously and has also supported decriminalization.
The issue has been eligible for the ballot after the group Oklahomans for Health submitted enough initiative petition signatures in August 2016.
Edmondson released a statement on Fallin’s announcement Thursday afternoon.
“It would seem that by placing State Question 788 on the primary ballot instead of on the general election ballot where turnout has historically been higher, Gov. Fallin is hoping to minimize the number of voters who decide its fate,” Edmondson said. “This is an important issue and certainly one where all Oklahomans should vote — despite Gov. Fallin’s efforts to stifle their voices. Personally, I believe science supports the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, and I’m voting yes.”
Fallin’s press release Thursday summarized the language of SQ 788:
If approved by voters, the measure would permit doctors to recommend a patient, who is at least 18 years old, for a state-issued medical marijuana license. A license holder would be allowed to legally possess up to 3 ounces of the drug, six mature plants and six seedlings. These limits can be increased by individual counties or cities.
Currently, 29 states and the District of Columbia allow for medical marijuana. The closest state to Oklahoma is Arkansas.
CBD oil in Oklahoma: A growing cure despite stigma by Jeff Packham
While Fallin’s decision to place the issue on the primary ballot could be viewed as a positive decision for the Oklahoma Republican Party as a whole, it will force a cadre of conservative gubernatorial candidates to take positions on the topic, which can be controversial.
But more and more Oklahomans are using some form of cannabis in their daily lives already. In 2015, Oklahoma passed Katie’s Law that authorized the sale of CBD oil for medicinal use. CBD oil contains only trace amounts of THC, the component of marijuana that provides a “high” for users.
June 1 is the deadline for Oklahomans to register to vote ahead of the June 26 primary.
(Editor’s note: This post was updated at 4:35 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 4, to include a statement from Edmondson.)