CategoryBallot measures

Oklahoma marijuana legalization initiative will appear on the ballot on March 7, 2023

Oklahoma voters will decide on State Question 820, an initiative to legalize marijuana, on March 7, 2023.

Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws, proponents of State Question 820, were initially targeting the 2022 ballot and submitted enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. However, due to legal challenges and statutory deadlines, the measure could not be placed on the 2022 ballot and was set to be voted on at a later election date. On October 18, Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) called a special election for the measure on March 7, 2023.

State Question 820 would legalize marijuana for adults 21 years old and older. The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority would be responsible for marijuana business licensing and regulations. Individuals would be allowed to possess, transport, and distribute up to one ounce (28.35 grams) of marijuana, eight grams of marijuana in a concentrated form, and/or eight grams or less of concentrated marijuana in marijuana-infused products. Marijuana sales would be taxed at 15%. Under State Question 820, individuals could possess up to six mature marijuana plants and up to six seedlings. The initiative would also provide a process for individuals to seek the expungement or modification of certain previous marijuana-related convictions or sentences.

Tax revenue generated from marijuana sales would be used to finance the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority’s implementation of the initiative with the remaining funds to be appropriated as follows:

  • 30% to the state general fund;
  • 30% to grants for public school programs to support student retention and performance, after-school and enrichment programs, and substance abuse prevention programs;
  • 20% to grants for government agencies and not-for-profit organizations to fund drug addiction treatment and overdose prevention programs;
  • 10% to the state judicial revolving fund; and
  • 10% to the municipalities or counties where the marijuana was sold.

In 2020, Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) ordered State Question 802, a Medicaid expansion initiative, to appear on the June 30 primary ballot rather than the November 3 general election ballot. In 2018, Gov. Mary Fallin (R) placed State Question 788, a medical marijuana initiative, on the June primary ballot. Prior to 2018, a governor had not selected a date different from the general election for an initiative since 2005.

As of October 2022, 19 states and Washington, D.C., had legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes.

  • In 11 states and D.C., the ballot initiative process was used to legalize marijuana.
  • In one state, the legislature referred a measure to the ballot for voter approval.
  • In seven states, bills to legalize marijuana were enacted into law.

In November 2022, five more states will decide on marijuana legalization ballot measures. In the central U.S., voters in Arkansas, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota will consider citizen-initiated measures to legalize marijuana. These four states are Republican trifectas. In Maryland, which has a divided government, the state Legislature voted to put the issue before voters.

Marijuana legalization initiatives targeting the 2023 and 2024 ballots have also been filed in Ohio, Wyoming, Florida, and Nebraska and could be filed in Idaho, Mississippi, Nebraska, and Utah.

As of October 20, two statewide ballot measures were certified for the ballot in two states for elections in 2023. From 2011 to 2021, an average of 33 statewide ballot measures — five initiated measures and 28 referred measures — appeared on ballots in odd-numbered years.



Bills introduced to change the initiative process increased in 2022, but those enacted decreased

Bills introduced to change the initiative process increased in 2022. However, fewer bills have been enacted in 2022 compared to 2021. The number of legislatively referred ballot measures related to initiatives also increased in 2022 compared to 2020.

In 2022, Ballotpedia tracked 231 bills regarding ballot measure laws. Seventeen of these bills were passed and signed into law. Most (187) did not come to a vote before legislative sessions adjourned or were defeated. In 2021, for comparison, Ballotpedia tracked fewer bills—226—but 36 were enacted.

Of the bills enacted in 2022, one law, in particular, could have an effect on signature drives. Florida HB 921, signed on April 6, prohibited out-of-state donors from giving more than $3,000 to support or oppose an initiative during the signature-gathering phase. In June, a federal judge blocked the bill.

In 2021, legislatures passed bills in Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Montana, and Utah regarding signature drives, such as increasing distribution requirements or prohibiting paid circulators. While the number of enacted laws decreased from 2021 to 2022, the number of legislatively referred measures related to the initiative process increased from two in 2018 to four in 2020 to six in 2022. 

In November, voters will decide on five measures—four constitutional amendments and one statute —related to the initiative process. Legislatures voted to place these measures on the ballot. Two of the measures were put on the ballot during 2022 legislative sessions, and the other three were put on the ballot during 2021 legislative sessions.

  1. Arkansas Issue 2: Requires a 60% vote to approve ballot initiatives
  2. Arizona Proposition 128: Allows the Legislature to amend or repeal voter-approved ballot measures that contain provisions ruled unconstitutional by the Arizona Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court
  3. Arizona Proposition 129: Requires citizen-initiated ballot measures to embrace a single subject
  4. Arizona Proposition 132: Requires a 60% vote to pass ballot measures to approve taxes
  5. Colorado Proposition GG: Requires a table showing changes in income tax owed for average taxpayers in certain brackets to be included in the ballot title for initiated measures

In June, voters in South Dakota rejected Amendment C, which would have required a three-fifths vote of approval for ballot measures that increase taxes or fees or require the state to appropriate $10 million or more in the first five fiscal years.

In 2020, legislatures placed four measures on the ballot to change initiative processes. There was also one initiative in Florida to require that constitutional amendments be passed at two elections. Measures were defeated in Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota. In Montana, voters approved two amendments to establish the existing signature distribution requirements for citizen-initiated measures as constitutional law.



Kansas Amendment 2 would require most county sheriffs to be elected

On Nov. 8, Kansas voters will decide on a ballot measure, Amendment 2, to require the election of county sheriffs in counties that had not abolished the office as of January 2022 and provide that sheriffs may be recalled from office or removed by a writ of quo warranto initiated by the attorney general. Currently, only one county, Riley County, of the state’s 105 counties does not have a sheriff. Amendment 2 would provide that the other 104 counties cannot eliminate their elected sheriff’s office.

Under current state law, voters can also recall a sheriff by submitting a petition containing valid signatures equal to at least 40% of the voters who voted in the last sheriff election.

The amendment has received support from Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R), Kansas Sheriffs Association, and Johnston County Sheriff’s Office. Attorney General Schmidt said, “The office of sheriff has deep historical roots, and the longstanding practice of election rather than appointment makes sheriffs uniquely accountable to the people. I commend the large bipartisan majorities in the Legislature for giving Kansas voters the opportunity to enshrine the elected office of sheriff in our state constitution, and I look forward to supporting and campaigning for this amendment this fall.”

The amendment is opposed by State Representatives Sydney Carlin (D), Mike Dodson (R), and Dennis Highberger (D), as well as Kurt Moldrup, the interim director of the Riley County Police Department. State Rep. Michael Dodson (R) said, “If a county wishes to have a sheriff, that’s a great choice. Likewise, if a county wishes to consolidate, they should be able to do that.”

Kansas voters will also be deciding on another constitutional amendment on Nov. 8 to authorize the state legislature to revoke or suspend an executive agency’s rules and regulations by a simple majority vote.

From 1995 through 2022, the state legislature referred 11 constitutional amendments to the ballot. Voters approved eight and rejected three of the referred amendments.



California ballot measure committees report $618.3 million in contributions

As of Sept. 24, 2022, ballot measure committees registered to support or oppose the seven ballot propositions on California’s November ballot reported receiving $618.3 million in contributions. Campaigns surrounding Propositions 26 and 27 reported the highest amount of contributions in recent California history with $427 million. The total nearly doubles the amount of the next most expensive ballot measure in California history, Proposition 22 (2020), which reported $224.2 million.

Three committees were registered to support and oppose Proposition 26, which would legalize in-person sports betting at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks. One committee, Yes on 26, No on 27 – Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming, was registered to support Proposition 26 and oppose Proposition 27. It reported $123.4 million in contributions. The top donors included the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria ($31. 9 million), Pechanga Band of Indians ($25.3 million), and Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation ($22.3 million). No on 26 – Taxpayers Against Special Interest Monopolies PAC and No on the Gambling Power Grab PAC, which oppose Prop 26, have reported over $43.1 million. The top donors to the committees were Hawaiian Gardens Casino ($10.2 million), California Commerce Club, Inc. ($10 million), and Knighted Ventures LLC ($4.2 million).

One committee was registered to support Proposition 27, Yes on 27 – Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support. It reported $169.2 million with top contributions from Betfair Interactive operator of Fanduel Sportsbook ($35 million), Crown Gaming operator of Draftkings ($34.2 million), and Penn National Gaming, Inc. ($25 million). One other committee was registered to oppose the measure: No on 27 – Californians for Tribal Sovereignty and Safe Gaming. It reported over $91.1 million. The top donors were the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians ($78.1 million) and the Rincon Band of Luiseno Mission Indians ($10 million).

Ballotpedia identified a total of 18 ballot measure committees registered for all the propositions. Below is a breakdown of contributions by proposition and position.

The Atkins Ballot Measure Committee is registered in support of Proposition 1, a constitutional amendment to establish a right to abortion. It has received $9.3 million. Two committees were registered in opposition to Proposition 1, Women for Reproductive Facts – No on Prop 1 PAC and Stop Prop 1 – A Committee in Opposition to Proposition 1 PAC. Together they reported $71,776 in contributions.

One committee, Yes on 28 – Californians for Arts and Music in Schools, was registered in support of Proposition 28, which would require increased funding for K-12 art and music education. It reported over $9.3 million in contributions. No committees were registered in opposition to Proposition 28.

Behind Propositions 26 and 27, Proposition 29 is the next most expensive measure on the November ballot. The two committees registered to support and oppose the measure have reported over $94.3 million in contributions. Proposition 29 is the third ballot initiative sponsored by SEIU-UHW to make the ballot since 2018.

There were five committees registered to support and oppose Proposition 30, which would enact an additional income tax on income above $2 million to fund zero-emission vehicles and wildfire prevention. The three support committees reported $37.1 million in contributions, and the two opposition committees reported over $12 million. 

Committees surrounding Proposition 31, a referendum on a flavored tobacco sales ban, reported $29.2 million in contributions. The top donors to the committee registered in support of a “yes” vote to uphold the ban were Michael Bloomberg ($4.3 million) and the Kaiser Foundation ($1.1 million). The top donors to the committee registered in support of a “no” vote to repeal the ban were Philip Morris USA, Inc. ($9.3 million) and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company ($9.5 million).

The next campaign finance filing deadline for California ballot measure committees is Oct. 27.

Additional reading:

https://ballotpedia.org/What_were_the_most_expensive_ballot_measures_in_California

https://ballotpedia.org/Ballot_measure_campaign_finance,_2022



Signatures submitted for a referendum on Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Accounts expansion bill

Arizona voters may vote on a referendum on a bill to expand empowerment scholarship accounts in 2024. On September 23, the Save Our Schools PAC submitted 141,714 signatures to put a referendum on the ballot. 

In Arizona, an empowerment scholarship account, or ESA, allows parents or guardians of students with disabilities to sign a contract to opt out of the public school system, and instead receive an ESA from the Arizona Department of Education (DOE) that could be spent on private education, homeschooling, or other non-public education. Between 2011 and 2017, the program was expanded to cover students meeting other specified criteria.

In 2017, the Arizona State Legislature passed Senate Bill 1431 (SB1431) to expand the ESA program to make all K-12 students eligible. The Save Our Schools PAC led the campaign to place a veto referendum against SB1431 on the general election ballot for 2018. Voters rejected SB 1431, repealing the law.

During the 2022 legislative session, lawmakers passed House Bill 2853, which would expand the ESA program to include all students eligible to enroll in an Arizona public school for kindergarten, grades one through twelve, or a preschool program for children with disabilities.

If certified for the ballot in 2024, Arizona voters will decide on upholding or repealing HB 2853.

Matt Beienburg, director of education policy for the Goldwater Institute, said, “At the end of the day the purpose of the ESA program and school choice is to give parents the ability to pursue the best education for their kids, regardless of what form it comes in. We are focused on individual student aid, not an institution or a particular form of education.”

Beth Lewis, executive director of Save Our Schools and opponent of HB 2853, said that tax dollars should not be used to fund non-public schools. “If a school wants to take public funds, they need to take public accountability,” she said.

As signatures have been submitted for the veto referendum, the petition needs to go through a verification process to determine the number of valid signatures. Signatures are validated through a random sampling process. The petition will need 118,823 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.



Voters will decide on 14 statewide ballot measures related to elections, voting, campaign finance, and term limits in 2022

Voters in 10 states will decide on 14 ballot measures related to elections, voting, campaign finance, and term limits in 2022.

Elections and voting policy measures

Ten ballot measures address electoral systems and voting policies.

On Nov. 8, Nevadans will decide whether to join Maine and Alaska in using a form of ranked-choice voting for congressional and certain state offices. Nevada Question 3 would establish an open top-five primary system and ranked-choice voting for general elections. 

In Alabama, voters will decide on Amendment 4, which would prohibit changes to election conduct laws within six months of general elections. Some states, including Alabama, made modifications to election dates, procedures, and administration in 2020, largely in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Arizona voters are deciding on two measures related to election and voting. Proposition 131 would create the office of lieutenant governor. Arizona is one of five states without a lieutenant governor. Proposition 309 would add requirements for Arizona citizens casting a mail-in ballot, as well as change voter ID requirements for in-person voters.

Connecticut will vote on a constitutional amendment to allow no-excuse early voting. Connecticut is one of five states that has not enacted the policy in some form.

Kansas voters will decide on an amendment to require the election of county sheriffs in counties that had not abolished the office as of January 2022 and provide that sheriffs may be recalled from office or removed by a writ of quo warranto initiated by the attorney general.

The Louisiana State Legislature sent a constitutional amendment to the Dec. 10 ballot that would add that “No person who is not a citizen of the United States shall be allowed to register and vote in this state.” Ohio voters will be deciding on a similar amendment on Nov. 8 that would specifically prohibit local governments from allowing noncitizens or those who lack the qualifications of an elector to vote in local elections.

In Michigan, voters will decide on Proposal 2, which would amend the state constitution to provide voters with the right to vote without harassment, interference, or intimidation; guarantee that military and overseas ballots postmarked by election day are counted; allow for a signed affidavit, as an alternative to the existing photo ID requirement; provide for nine days of early voting; and make other changes.

Nebraska voters will decide on Initiative 432, which would require a photo ID to vote in the state. Twenty-one states require a photo voter ID to vote in person. An additional 14 states require a non-photo ID to vote in person. Nebraska is one of 15 states without an ID requirement.

Campaigns and campaign finance

Arizona voters will also be deciding on Proposition 211, which would require that persons or entities that make an independent expenditure of $50,000 or more on a statewide campaign or $25,000 or more on a local campaign must disclose the names of the money’s original sources. The term original sources would be defined as the persons or businesses that earned the money being spent.

In November, Louisiana voters will decide on a measure to allow classified service/civil service employees to publicly support the election campaigns of individuals in their immediate family when off duty.

Term limits

Voters in Michigan and North Dakota will decide on two measures related to term limits. Michigan Proposal 1 would ​​change the term limits for state legislators from three 2-year terms (6 years) in the state House and two 4-year terms (8 years) in the state Senate to 12 combined years in the legislature. It would also require that elected state legislative and state executive officials must file annual financial disclosure reports.

The North Dakota measure would limit the governor to serving two four-year terms and limit state legislators to serving eight years in the state House and eight years in the state Senate. Currently, North Dakota does not have any term limits on the governor or state legislators.



Votes for Arkansas marijuana legalization initiative will be counted

Votes for Arkansas Issue 4, a marijuana legalization initiative on the November ballot, will be counted after the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners’ decision to not certify the initiative’s ballot title.

Responsible Growth Arkansas, the campaign behind the marijuana legalization initiative, submitted more than 190,000 signatures on July 8. The Arkansas secretary of state announced on July 29 that the campaign had submitted more than the required number of valid signatures (89,151) and qualified for the ballot.

On Aug. 3, 2022, the election commissioners declined to certify the ballot title and popular name for the initiative, stating that the language was misleading. The next day, Responsible Growth Arkansas filed a lawsuit in the state Supreme Court. The campaign said the board “[thwarted] the will of the people and their right to adopt laws by initiative.” The campaign requested an expedited review because the deadline for the secretary of state to certify measures for the 2022 ballot was August 25. On August 11, the state Supreme Court ordered the secretary of state to certify the measure for the ballot.

Under Issue 4, adults 21 years old and older would be authorized to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Adults could possess up to one ounce of marijuana. By March 7, 2023, businesses that already hold licenses under the state’s medical marijuana program would be authorized to sell adult-use marijuana at their existing dispensaries and one additional location for adult-use marijuana sales only. By July 5, 2023, an additional 40 licenses would be given to businesses chosen by a lottery and would need to be located at least five miles away from a dispensary with an active license. The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Division of the Department of Finance and Administration would regulate the program and provide for licensing.

Responsible Growth Arkansas has raised $4.01 million according to campaign finance reports covering information through August 31. The campaign said Issue 4 would “[support] law enforcement salaries and bolster local police budgets so that our officers can go after serious crime,” “[improve] the Arkansas’ existing medical marijuana program by removing burdensome taxes that are currently being paid by qualified patients receiving medical treatment,” and “safely legalize the sale of cannabis to adults 21 and older and create revenue that goes to more funding for local police departments.”

Safe and Secure Communities registered to oppose the initiative and has raised $2 million. Safe and Secure Communities said, “We’re on a mission to save Arkansas from the destructive effects of legalized drugs, and we need your support. Many cities around the nation are destroyed, and now Arkansas is at risk. Help keep Arkansas communities secure and our citizens safe. The pot industry is directly targeting kids, even though hundreds of scientific studies show that marijuana – especially today’s high-potency weed – permanently damages the teenage brain. Teens who smoke pot regularly drop out at twice the rate of non-users, and as adults they earn less and have a lower IQ. Marijuana-related policy changes, including legalization, have significant unintended consequences for children, adolescents, and cities large and small.”

Marijuana legalization measures are certified to appear on the 2022 ballot in Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Currently, 19 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Eleven states and D.C. had legalized marijuana through the ballot initiative process. A marijuana legalization initiative targeting the 2022 ballot in Oklahoma was ordered to appear on the 2024 ballot after legal challenges were not resolved before state deadlines to print ballots.



132 statewide measures will be on Nov. 8 ballot

Voters in 37 states will decide on 132 ballot measures at the general election on November 8. As five ballot measures were decided at elections earlier this year, and three more will be decided in December, the annual total of statewide ballot measures for 2022 is 140.

Across the U.S., ballot measures will address issues like abortion, marijuana, and election law in November. Topics like sports betting, psychedelic fungi and plants, flavored tobacco, alcohol, firearms, and income taxes are featured on ballots in some states.

Number of citizen-initiated measures below average

This year’s annual total—140—is more than the number of statewide ballot measures in 2020, which was 129. However, the annual total is below the previous decade’s (2010-2020) average of 164. 

The number of citizen-initiated ballot measures and legislative referrals has decreased since 2010. The number of citizen-initiated measures in 2022 is 30, which is the lowest number during the prior decade. In 2020, there were 43 citizen-initiated measures. 

There could be several reasons for the lower number of initiatives in 2022. For 2022, 851 initiatives were proposed, and 3.5% made the ballot. In 2016, for instance, 1,069 initiatives were proposed, and 7.1% made the ballot. Overall, there is a correlation between the number of initiatives proposed and the number certified for the ballot, and there is also a decade-long trend toward fewer proposed initiatives making the ballot. There are also fewer initiatives, on average, during mid-term years compared to presidential years. From 2010 to 2022, presidential years featured an average of 60 citizen-initiated measures, whereas mid-term years featured an average of 47 citizen-initiated measures. Campaigns have also cited the effects of COVID-19 and labor shortages on signature drive costs in 2022.

An additional factor for ballot initiative campaigns is recent signature increases. Of the 26 states that allow for some form of initiative or referendum, 22 states base their signature requirements on turnout at specific elections, which either occurred in 2018 or 2020. According to the U.S. Elections Project, the midterm turnout in 2018 was 50%, the highest since 1912, and 13.3 percentage points above 2014. The presidential election turnout in 2020 was 66.8%, the highest since 1900, and 6.7 percentage points above 2016. In California, which saw the largest signature increase, the requirement increased by 70.3%. 

Trends include abortion, marijuana, and election policies

Abortion has been a topic for statewide ballot measures since the 1970s. Since 2000, there have been just two general election cycles, 2002 and 2016, without abortion-related state ballot measures. In November, there are five ballot measures addressing abortion—the most on record for a single year. Earlier, in August, one measure was defeated in Kansas. Before 2022, the highest number of abortion-related measures on statewide ballots was four in 1986. In California, Michigan, and Vermont, voters will decide on constitutional rights to abortion. In Kentucky, like Kansas, voters will decide on a constitutional amendment to declare that the state constitution cannot be interpreted as creating a right to abortion. Voters in Montana will decide on a measure requiring medical care to be provided to infants born alive after an attempted abortion or other procedure.

Heading into November, marijuana is legal in 19 states and D.C. Of those 19 states, 13 and D.C. had legalized marijuana through the ballot measure process. In 2022, five more states will decide on marijuana legalization ballot measures. In the central U.S., voters in Arkansas, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota will consider citizen-initiated measures to legalize marijuana. In Maryland, the state legislature voted to put the issue before voters.

Voters in 10 states will decide on ballot measures to change election policies or laws in November. South Dakota decided on a measure in June, and Louisiana will decide on one in December. Voters will decide on a top-five ranked-choice voting system in Nevada, where approval of an initiated constitutional amendment is required twice in 2022 and 2024. Voters in three states will decide on legislative proposals to change the processes for citizen-initiated ballot measures this year. Other issues on the ballot include early voting, voter identification, citizenship requirements, and campaign finance reporting.

You can learn more about this year’s statewide ballot measures at Ballotpedia.org.



Five measures that would change the initiative process are on the ballot in 2022

In November, there are a total of five measures on the ballot related to the initiative process. A ballot initiative is a way that citizens can propose, amend, or repeal a state law or constitutional provision by collecting signatures from registered voters. Successful signature drives result in an initiative being placed on the ballot for voters to approve or reject. Twenty-six states have an initiative process at the state level, and each state has different rules and requirements regarding the ballot initiative process, including majority and supermajority requirements, single-subject rules, and requirements for measures that increase taxes.

Five measures regarding the initiative process are on the ballot for the November 8, 2022 general election. One measure was on the ballot in June. This November, the states with ballot measures regarding the initiative process are Arizona (3 measures), Arkansas (1 measure), and Colorado (1 measure). 

Last June, voters rejected a measure in South Dakota called Amendment C by 67-32%. Amendment C would have changed the vote requirement from a simple majority to a 60% majority for ballot measures that increase taxes or require the state to appropriate $10 million or more in the first five fiscal years.

In November, voters will decide on five measures regarding the initiative process in Arizona, Arkansas, and Colorado:

  • Arkansas Issue 2: Amends the Arkansas Constitution to require a 60% vote of approval from voters to adopt constitutional amendments (legislatively referred and citizen-initiated) and citizen-initiated state statutes.
  • Arizona Proposition 128: Amends the Arizona Constitution to allow the Arizona State Legislature to amend or repeal voter-approved ballot initiatives if any portion has been declared unconstitutional or illegal by the Arizona Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Arizona Proposition 129: Amends the Arizona Constitution to require that citizen-initiated ballot measures embrace a single subject.
  • Arizona Proposition 132: Amends the Arizona Constitution to require a 60% vote for voters to pass ballot measures to approve taxes.
  • Colorado Proposition GG: Requires the ballot titles and fiscal impact summaries for initiatives that affect income taxes to include information on how the change would affect income taxes for different categories of income.

Between 2010 and June 2022, there were 20 measures regarding the initiative process on the ballot. Voters approved 11 (55%) of them, while nine (45%) were rejected.

Additional reading:



Challenge period for Oklahoma marijuana initiative ends with four challenges filed; state supreme court to decide on whether the initiative will appear on the 2022 ballot

A 10-day challenge period for Oklahoma marijuana initiative State Question 820 ended on September 15 with four challenges filed with the state Supreme Court. In addition to resolving the challenges, the Supreme Court is also set to decide on whether the measure will be placed on the November 2022 ballot.

Once signatures for an initiative are submitted, the secretary of state’s office counts the signatures and submits a report to the court. On August 22, the secretary of state announced that proponents submitted 117,257 valid signatures and forwarded the signature count report to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. After the supreme court determines the sufficiency of signatures, the court orders the secretary of state to publish a notice of the signature submission, the ballot title, and notice that any citizen may file a petition challenging the sufficiency of the signatures or ballot title within 10 days.

The challenge period for State Question 820 began on September 1 and ended on September 15, 2022. Two challenges were filed related to the validity of signatures submitted for the initiative and two challenges were filed related to the initiative’s ballot language.

Former Oklahoma State Rep. Mike Reynolds (R) and former gubernatorial candidate Paul Tay (I) filed lawsuits with the Oklahoma Supreme Court challenging the validity of signatures submitted by proponents. Reynolds argued that the validity of signatures cannot be reviewed without taking legal action to review them and requested a signature review period. Tay argued that signatures collected on American Indian lands should be invalidated. Attorneys for initiative sponsors said, “As this Court is aware, ballot deadlines are looming, and time is of the essence here. Proponents thus respectfully request that the Court resolve the instant challenge quickly, to ensure that SQ820 may be submitted to a vote of the People at the upcoming November 2022 general election.”

A challenge to the initiative’s ballot language was filed by John Stotts, a former member of the Pottawatomie County Farm Bureau board of directors; Karma Robinson, president of public affairs and political communications firm GR Pro; and Mary Chris Barth, a current member of the Beaver County Farm Bureau’s board of directors. The challenge alleged that the ballot language is misleading because it fails to mention that “several laws protecting children from marijuana would be removed,” “possession of a firearm while under the influence of marijuana would be legalized,” and “more serious marijuana crimes would be legalized or decriminalized.”

A second challenge to the ballot language was filed by Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action director Jed Green, sponsor of other proposed marijuana initiatives for which no signatures were submitted by the August deadline. Green alleged that State Question 820’s ballot language is misleading because it fails to mention that the initiative could be amended by the state legislature if approved by voters, public consumption fines would be limited to $25, and that medical marijuana dispensaries would need a second license to sell adult-use marijuana.

After an initiative petition is found to have sufficient signatures and all challenges have been resolved, the secretary of state notifies the governor, who issues an election proclamation. The governor’s election proclamation must be issued and certified to the State Election Board at least 70 days prior to an election in order for a state question to appear on a ballot. Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said August 29 (70 days prior to the general election) was the deadline to formally certify measures for the ballot.

State Question 820 sponsors asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to expedite the ballot title verification process and include the measure on the November 2022 ballot, saying that “The new process took about 48 days from the time we turned in our signatures until the time they were verified. In the past, that was usually about two weeks or a little longer. It’s been a new process for them, which has caused a lot of missteps along the way. They have dropped the ball, which is why we have asked the Supreme Court to intervene.” The state argued for the measure to be placed on the ballot for a later election — either a special election if one is called or the 2024 ballot.

In a press release published on September 16, the State Question 820 campaign said proponents “remain optimistic that the Oklahoma Supreme Court will act swiftly to dismiss the seemingly politically motivated challenges, and let the people vote.”

Marijuana legalization measures are certified to appear on the 2022 ballot in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Votes on the Arkansas initiative may not be counted pending a state Supreme Court ruling.