Oklahoma Legalization — Why It Didn’t Happen?

Oklahoma Legalization — Why It Didn’t Happen?

According to recent data from the Marijuana Policy Project, it’s been determined that the combined tax totals for recreational and medical cannabis use in the US reached $3.7 billion in 2021. [1] This doesn’t include the local sales taxes some cities impose on cannabis. 

California was the first US state to legalize medical cannabis in 1996, but recreational cannabis wasn’t legalized until 2012 in Colorado and Washington. In 2014 two more US states – Oregon and Alaska – legalized recreational cannabis, followed by Massachusetts, Nevada, California, and Maine in 2016. 

With so many states legalizing medicinal and recreational cannabis, it has led many to believe that other states like Oklahoma will soon follow. Yet, is weed legal in Oklahoma? The answer to this important question is yes and no. A detailed description of Oklahoma weed laws will give you a better understanding of this state’s viewpoint and legal stance on cannabis. 

Oklahoma Recreational Cannabis Laws

Oklahoma is a state with a solid bastion of conservatism, but despite this, it has accepted medicinal marijuana. That’s why its landscape is dotted with more than 400 dispensaries in Oklahoma City alone. With so much support for medicinal cannabis, many believed that this state would make moves toward legalizing recreational cannabis, but this wasn’t the case. [2]

According to the Associated Press, on Tuesday, the 7th of March 2023, voters across Oklahoma decided against legalizing recreational cannabis use by those 21 and older. It was a resounding loss, with more than 62% of votes calling for recreational cannabis use to remain illegal compared to the roughly 38% of votes supporting it. 

This decision comes in the wake of three other US states – South Dakota, North Dakota, and Arkansas – retaining their illegal status concerning recreational cannabis use. This loss for cannabis use in Oklahoma is a reminder that recreational cannabis still faces powerful opposition, especially in conservative US states. 

Furthermore, the ‘no’ campaign was led by Terri White, who is the former head of the Oklahoma Department of Health and Substance Abuse Services, and ex-FBI agent Frank Keating who made a powerful team. 

If Oklahoma had won the vote, it would have become the 22nd state to legalize recreational cannabis use in the US. It’s unclear if Oklahoma will legalize recreational cannabis any time soon, with much of the state government opposed to the idea. [3]

According to sources, nearly every Republican senator, Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, and most of the state GOP legislators opposed the idea:

“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”

Kevin Stitt

The “No” Vote Leaves Oklahoma Missing Out

With Oklahoma voting against legalizing recreational cannabis use for adults, the state has missed out on the chance to earn a 15% excise tax over and above the standard sales tax. This tax would have been used to fund the court system, local municipalities, the state’s general revenue fund, substance abuse treatment, and public schools. 

Additionally, according to a study by the Oklahoma Cannabis Industry Association and the law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP, it’s estimated that from 2024 to 2028, legal recreational cannabis could have more than doubled Oklahoma’s revenue from legal weed to $821 million. [4]

Even though recreational cannabis remains illegal, the ‘‘Yes” on 820 campaign director Michelle Tilley said that full cannabis legalization was inevitable despite Tuesday’s result. [5] She reasons that about 400,000 Oklahomans already use cannabis legally, and many thousands more use it illegally. 


  1. Project, M. P. (n.d.). Cannabis tax revenue in states that regulate cannabis for adult use. MPP. Retrieved March 24, 2023, from https://www.mpp.org/issues/legalization/cannabis-tax-revenue-states-regulate-cannabis-adult-use/#:~:text=Of%20the%20cannabis%2Drelated%20tax,mental%20health%20and%20treatment%20programs.&text=The%20below%20figures%20do%20not%20include%20the,sales%20tax%20some%20localities%20impose
  2. Law, T. (2023, March 8). Oklahoma rejects legalizing marijuana. is movement in trouble? Time. Retrieved March 24, 2023, from https://time.com/6261173/oklahoma-rejects-marijuana-legalization-future/ 
  3. The Christian Science Monitor. (2023, March 8). Oklahoma voters halt $4.9m push to legalize recreational marijuana. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved March 24, 2023, from https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2023/0308/Oklahoma-voters-halt-4.9m-push-to-legalize-recreational-marijuana 
  4. KGOU |                                                     By. (2023, March 2). What to know about state question 820 and legalizing recreational marijuana in Oklahoma. KGOU. Retrieved March 24, 2023, from https://www.kgou.org/oklahoma-news/2023-03-02/what-to-know-about-state-question-820-and-legalizing-recreational-marijuana-in-oklahoma 
  5. Oklahoma secretary of State – Home. (n.d.). Retrieved March 24, 2023, from https://www.sos.ok.gov/documents/questions/820.pdf 

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