A broad coalition of Republicans, conservative faith leaders, educators of diverse political perspectives, rural elected officials and law enforcement combined to crush State Question 820 in the March 7 special election.
The group that pushed for approval of S.Q. 820 reiterated basic pro-pot legalization arguments in an election night graphic – seemingly an assurance the fight will continue.
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt expressed satisfaction with the result. In a statement on Tuesday night as the negative voter verdict became clear, he said, “Oklahoma is a law and order state. I remain committed to protecting Oklahomans and my administration will continue to hold bad actors accountable and crack down on illegal marijuana operations in our state.”
Attorney General Gentner Drummond, who has frequently clashed with the chief executive, said in his own post-election communication to The City Sentinel, "I'm proud of Oklahomans for rejecting the expansion of organized crime by defeating State Question 820. Regardless of where one stands on the question of marijuana legalization, the stark reality is that organized crime from China and Mexico has infiltrated Oklahoma's medical marijuana industry. I will continue to focus on this serious threat to public safety by targeting the illegal grow operations throughout our state."
A 2018 initiative on medical marijuana legalization went 56.86% in favor, with only 43.14% against. That proposition, held on the primary election day, drew 892,858 voters to the polls.
This week’s special election on full-scale legalization and taxation of pot, went 61.88% against, and 38.32% in favor. A total of 556,004 people voted.
The difference in raw number of ballots cast invites detailed examination, which will be forthcoming. One anti-820 group, Oklahoma Faith Leaders, encouraged members to vote, reminding people that elections are decided by those who show up to vote – whether it’s absentee ballots, early voting or on the traditional Election Day.
Supporters were disappointed in the results, but re-stated their campaign arguments after the results became clear.
“Our mission from the very start has been about making a more prosperous, just and safer state,” said Campaign Director Michelle Tilley in a statement sent to The City Sentinel. “We are moms and dads who want more revenue in our schools, more resources for law enforcement, and more jobs and investment in communities across the state. Unfortunately, tonight we fell short.”
Former state legislator Ryan Kiesel said in his statement sent to the newspaper, “We have thousands of families being torn apart and thrown into chaos every year because a mom or a dad has a small amount of marijuana that would be legal in 21 other states and legal in Oklahoma for medical card holders.”
He continued, “Furthermore, the enforcement of Oklahoma’s marijuana laws has historically been deeply slanted against Black Oklahomans, who are much more likely to be arrested than their White counterparts. We must continue to work to end these unjust and wasteful arrests and to give people who do have arrests or convictions on their records the tools to seek expungement and start with a clean slate.”
In this particular election, opponents of pot legalization appealed to their base, and created doubt in the minds of supporters of medical marijuana about the status quo, let alone legalization.
Those who study direct democracy have a saying, drawn from the sport of soccer: “When in doubt kick it out.”
This reflects the willingness of voters to say yes to one part of an issue, and no on another. Voters were presented a Yes or No question, and those who showed up to vote delivered an overwhelming NO.

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