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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.



Marijuana legalization initiative certified for the ballot in Missouri

On Aug. 9, 2022, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (R) announced that a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in Missouri qualified for the November 8 general election ballot.

The citizen-initiated ballot measure, led by the Legal Missouri 2022 campaign, needed 171,592 signatures to qualify for the ballot. Legal Missouri 2022 submitted more than 385,000 signatures in May. Secretary Ashcroft certified that a sufficient number of verified signatures were submitted to qualify the initiative for the ballot.

If voters approve of the initiative in November, the measure would amend the Missouri Constitution to legalize recreational marijuana in Missouri for adults over the age of 21. It would also allow personal cultivation of marijuana with prescribed limits and regulations, impose a six percent tax on the retail price of marijuana, and allow people with a record of certain marijuana-related non-violent offenses to petition for release from incarceration or parole and probation and to have their records expunged. It would also establish a lottery selection process to award licenses and certificates, and distribute licenses within each congressional district.

While medicinal marijuana is legal for those with a medical ID card in Missouri, recreational marijuana is illegal.

John Payne, the campaign manager of Legal Missouri 2022, said, “We look forward to engaging with voters across the state in the coming weeks and months. Missourians are more than ready to end the senseless and costly prohibition of marijuana.”

Supporters of the initiative include the ACLU of Missouri, the NAACP of St. Louis City, and NORML of Kansas City. “Cannabis reform is about more than establishing a safe and legal market,” said Jamie Kacz, the executive director of NORML KC, “It is about righting the many wrongs prohibition has caused to our communities, especially communities of color.”

Christina Thompson, with ShowMe Canna-Freedom, is critical of the regulations regarding commercial licenses. Thompson said, “This initiative eliminates nearly all competition through constitutionally protected license caps. Recreational licenses created under the initiative will go straight to established businesses as well, meaning instead of opening up more business opportunities for others, money only goes to those who are already profiting.”

The Missouri initiative joins two other marijuana legalization ballot measures that will appear on the ballot in the November general election–a constitutional amendment in Maryland, and an initiated state statute in South Dakota.

There are now five certified measures on the Missouri ballot for November 2022.

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Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners declines to certify ballot language for initiatives to legalize marijuana and repeal Pope County’s casino authorization

On August 3, the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners declined to certify the ballot titles and popular names for two initiatives that had submitted signatures. Fair Play for Arkansas 2022 said they were considering their options to challenge the board’s decision. Responsible Growth Arkansas said they planned to challenge the board’s decision with the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Responsible Growth Arkansas, the campaign behind the marijuana legalization initiative, submitted more than 190,000 signatures on July 8, 2022. 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 would qualify for the ballot if the Board of Election Commissioners certified the ballot language.

The measure would legalize marijuana use for individuals 21 years of age and older and authorize the commercial sale of marijuana with a 10% sales tax. Adults could possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Under the amendment, businesses that already hold licenses under the state’s medical marijuana program would be authorized to sell marijuana for personal use. An additional 40 licenses would be given to businesses chosen by a lottery. The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Division of the Department of Finance and Administration would regulate the program and provide for cannabis business licensing.

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.

Fair Play for Arkansas 2022 reported submitting 103,096 signatures for an initiative to repeal the casino authorization for Pope County. In 2018, voters approved Issue 4 authorizing the county to grant a casino license for one casino. Under Issue 4, the Pope County license required applicants to pay fees to apply, demonstrate experience in conducting casino gaming, or furnish a letter of support from the county judge. The Pope County license was awarded to the Cherokee Nation.

In Arkansas, a total of 44 ballot measures appeared on the statewide ballot between 2000 and 2020. Thirty-two (72.73%) ballot measures were approved, and 12 (27.27%) ballot measures were defeated.



Campaign in North Dakota submits signatures for marijuana legalization initiative

In North Dakota, a campaign behind a marijuana legalization initiative reported submitting 25,672 signatures on July 11, 2022. New Approach North Dakota Chairman Dave Owen said, “This signature drive showed us that, from Williston to Grand Forks, people all across our state are ready for responsible cannabis policy reform… We’re looking forward to all of our hard work paying off when we receive the official word that we’re on the ballot.” Of the signatures submitted, 15,582 signatures must be valid for the initiative to appear on the ballot in November.

Along with North Dakota, campaigns submitted signatures for marijuana legalization initiatives targeting the November ballot in Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.

The measure would legalize the personal use of cannabis for adults 21 and older and allow individuals possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to three cannabis plants. The measure would require the Department of Health and Human Services, or another department or agency designated by the state legislature, to establish an adult-use cannabis program to regulate the production and distribution of adult-use marijuana by October 1, 2023. Under the measure, the department could license seven cultivation facilities and 18 cannabis retailers. Marijuana would be taxed at the state’s 5% sales tax rate.

David Owen was also the chairman of LegalizeND, the committee that sponsored a marijuana legalization initiative that voters rejected in 2018. Owen said that the biggest difference between Measure 3 of 2018 and this initiative is that “[this initiative] is restricted, regulated, controlled, legal marijuana. This is a marijuana program that is very, very similar to the one that passed the North Dakota State House.”

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.

In North Dakota, a total of 115 ballot measures appeared on the statewide ballot during even-numbered election years between 1986 and 2020. Fifty-seven ballot measures (49.57%) were approved, and 58 ballot measures (50.43%) were defeated.



Nebraska medical marijuana campaign turns in signatures for two initiatives

On July 7, Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana submitted about 180,000 combined signatures for two ballot initiatives, or about 90,000 signatures for each initiative, that would legalize and regulate medical marijuana. 

Both ballot initiatives are state statutes and require a number of signatures equal to 7% of the state’s registered voters as of the deadline. As of July 1, that number was 86,772 signatures. Nebraska also has a distribution requirement mandating that petitions contain signatures from 5% of the registered voters in each of two-fifths (38) of the state’s 93 counties.

Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s distribution requirement in May. On June 13, 2022, a judge for the U.S. District Court for Nebraska issued an order temporarily blocking the state’s distribution requirement pending a final decision on its constitutionality. On July 6, 2022, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the lower court’s ruling allowing the secretary of state to enforce the distribution requirement.

The first initiative, titled the Nebraska Medical Cannabis Patient Protection Act, would legalize the use of up to five ounces of marijuana for medical purposes by qualified patients. Qualified patients would be defined as individuals 18 years of age or older with a written recommendation from a healthcare practitioner or an individual younger than 18 with a written recommendation from a healthcare practitioner and with written permission from a legal guardian.

The second initiative, titled the Nebraska Medical Cannabis Regulation Act, would legalize the possession, manufacture, distribution, delivery, and dispensing of marijuana for medical purposes and establish the Nebraska Medical Cannabis Commission to regulate and provide the necessary registration for the medical marijuana program.

The initiatives were filed by State Senators Anna Wishart (D-27) and Adam Morfeld (D-46). “There’s no campaign in the history of the state of Nebraska who has turned in, on a total grassroots basis, this number of signatures,” Wishart said.

Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana qualified a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana in 2020. However, the Nebraska Supreme Court removed it from the ballot in September after it concluded the initiative violated the state’s single-subject rule requiring initiatives to address one subject. The court argued that the initiative violated the single-subject rule because it provided a constitutional property right to grow and sell marijuana and authorized other policies that would regulate the use of medical marijuana that did not naturally connect to the general purpose of a constitutional right to use medical marijuana for individuals with serious medical conditions.

Counties have 40 days to verify the submitted signatures. The general election ballot will be finalized on September 16.

As of July 2022, medical marijuana was legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia. Of the 37 states, 18 states established medical marijuana through the ballot initiative process. In the other 19 states, it was established through legislation.

Additional reading:

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Program Initiative (2022)

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Regulation Initiative (2022)



Signatures submitted in Arkansas for initiatives to legalize marijuana and repeal Pope County’s casino authorization

In Arkansas, a campaign behind a marijuana legalization initiative reported submitting more than 190,000 signatures on July 8, 2022. Steve Lancaster, a spokesperson for the campaign, said, “we’re going to be well in excess of what we need to get on the ballot, so we’re very excited about that.” Of the signatures submitted, 89,151 signatures must be valid for the initiative to appear on the ballot in November.

The measure would legalize marijuana use for individuals 21 years of age and older and authorize the commercial sale of marijuana with a 10% sales tax. Adults could possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Under the amendment, businesses that already hold licenses under the state’s medical marijuana program would be authorized to sell marijuana for personal use. An additional 40 licenses would be given to businesses chosen by a lottery. The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Division of the Department of Finance and Administration would regulate the program and provide for cannabis business licensing.

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.

Signatures were also submitted for an initiative to repeal the casino authorization for Pope County. The county was authorized to grant a casino license for one casino when voters approved Issue 4 in 2018.

Under Issue 4, the Pope County license required applicants to pay fees to apply, demonstrate experience in conducting casino gaming, or furnish a letter of support from the county judge. The Pope County license was awarded to the Cherokee Nation, but the license is not yet in effect pending legal challenges.

Fair Play for Arkansas 2022, the campaign behind the initiative, said, “Gambling interests are desperately trying to bring a casino to Pope County, over the objections of our community. In 2018, out-of-state casino developers wrote Pope County into a statewide ballot initiative to legalize casino gambling in just four counties in Arkansas—without any input from Pope County citizens. It turns out that Pope County voters don’t want a casino. We rejected Amendment 100 by a 3-2 margin, the highest NO vote of any county in the state.”

In Arkansas, a total of 44 ballot measures appeared on the statewide ballot between 2000 and 2020. Thirty-two (72.73%) ballot measures were approved, and 12 (27.27%) ballot measures were defeated.



Campaign for marijuana legalization initiative submits signatures in Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, the campaign behind a marijuana legalization initiative reported submitting 164,000 signatures for the ballot measure on July 5, 2022. Michelle Tilley, the campaign director, said, “The overwhelming number of signatures we have received demonstrates that our campaign has the momentum.” Of the signatures submitted, 94,911 signatures must be valid for the initiative to appear on the ballot in November.

Titled State Question 820, the ballot initiative would legalize the possession, transportation, and distribution of 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. 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.

Revenue generated from marijuana sales taxes would 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 2018, voters approved a ballot measure to establish a medical marijuana program. The vote was 56.86% – 43.14%.

As of June 2022, 19 states and Washington, D.C., had legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Of these 19, 11 states and D.C. had legalized marijuana through the ballot initiative process.

From 1985 to 2020, a total of 17 citizen-initiated measures were on state ballots in Oklahoma. Voters approved 52.94% (9 of 17) of the measures and rejected 47.06% (8 of 17) were defeated.



Marijuana legalization initiative qualifies for the South Dakota ballot

On Wednesday, South Dakota Secretary of State Steve Barnett (R) announced that a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana was certified for the ballot. The measure will be titled Initiated Measure 27, and will appear on the general election ballot in November.

South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws led the campaign to place the measure on the ballot, submitting their signature petition on May 3rd, 2022. A random sample found 25,023 signatures to be valid, surpassing the 16,961 signature requirement.

“We are confident that we can achieve victory for the second consecutive election, pass Initiated Measure 27 by a strong margin, and restore the will of the people,” Matthew Schweich, campaign director for South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, stated in a press release.

If voters approve Initiated Measure 27 in November, the measure will legalize the possession, use, and distribution of marijuana for people aged 21 and over. In South Dakota, the medical use of marijuana was made legal in 2021 after voters passed Initiated Measure 26 in 2020.

Marijuana was previously on the ballot as a constitutional amendment in South Dakota in 2020, referred to as Amendment A. Voters approved of the measure with 54% of the vote, but the measure was overturned by a circuit court ruling in February 2021. Circuit Judge Christina Klinger found the measure unconstitutional, stating that it violated South Dakota’s single subject rule, and was a revision of the constitution rather than an amendment. Melissa Mentele, executive director of New Approach South Dakota, filed the new marijuana initiative in 2021 as a state statute rather than a constitutional amendment. Unlike Amendment A, Initiated Measure 27 does not establish a framework for marijuana taxation or commercial cannabis cultivation, instead leaving these details up to the state.

In South Dakota, 32 citizen-initiated measures appeared on ballots in the 20-year period between 2000 and 2020. Out of these 32 measures, 12 (37.5%) of the measures were voters, while 20 (62.5%) of them were defeated. There is currently one other measure certified for the November general election ballot, referred to as Constitutional Amendment D, which will require South Dakota to provide Medicaid benefits to adults between 18 and 65 with incomes below 133% of the federal poverty level.

Nationwide, there are 15 potential or certified ballot measures in seven states related to marijuana. Maryland is currently the only other state with a certified marijuana measure on the ballot in November. Voters in Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Oklahoma may also see the issue on their ballots.

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Montana voters in Lewis and Clark County will decide on two local-option marijuana taxes on June 7

On June 7, voters in Lewis and Clark County, Montana, will decide on two local-option excise taxes on medical and recreational marijuana sales. The first ballot measure would impose a 3% tax on recreational marijuana sales and related products. The second ballot measure would also impose a 3% tax on medical marijuana sales and related products. The taxes would take effect on October 1, 2022.

The Lewis and Clark County Commission voted to refer the measures to the ballot on Feb. 8, 2022.

In the 2020 election, Montana voters approved I-190 by a vote of 56.90% to 43.10%. The initiative legalized the possession and use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21, imposed a 20% tax on marijuana sales, required the Department of Revenue to develop rules to regulate marijuana businesses, and allowed for the resentencing or expungement of marijuana-related crimes.

On March 29, 2021, the Montana House of Representatives introduced House Bill 701 (HB 701). It passed both chambers and was signed by Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) in May 2021. HB 701 authorized counties to impose a local-option excise tax of up to 3% on medical and recreational marijuana sales. The revenue from the tax would be distributed as follows:

  • 50% to the authorizing county;
  • 45% to municipalities according to share of county population; and
  • 5% to the Montana Department of Revenue for administration costs.

According to the state’s Department of Revenue, in February 2022, non-medical and medical marijuana sales totaled nearly $1.7 million. With a 3% tax rate, the estimated tax revenue would be $50,643.09.

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Marijuana legalization campaign submits signatures for Missouri ballot initiative

A marijuana legalization campaign submitted signatures for a Missouri ballot initiative on Sunday. Legal Missouri 2022, the PAC supporting the initiative, stated that it submitted more than 385,000 petition signatures. If enough signatures are verified, the initiative will appear on the ballot this November.

If implemented, the measure would legalize marijuana possession and use for anyone over 21 years of age. It would also legalize the purchase, delivery, manufacturing, and sale of marijuana and enact a 6% tax on marijauna sales. The proposal would allow those who have been convicted of non-violent marijuana crimes to petition for their release from prison or expungement of their records.

The measure received support from the ACLU of Missouri, NAACP St. Louis City, as well as MoCannTrade, an association of marijuana business owners. “Cannabis reform is about more than establishing a safe and legal market. It is about righting the many wrongs prohibition has caused to our communities, especially communities of color,” said Jamie Kacz, executive director of NORML KC.

Some marijuana legalization advocates have made arguments critical of the ballot measure, saying that the measure’s licensing provisions exclude entrepreneurs and favor existing businesses with medical licenses. “There is no reason why Missouri entrepreneurs, and particularly in minority communities, shouldn’t have full access to commercial licensing opportunities,” said Tim Gilio of the Missouri Marijuana Legalization Movement.

Representative Ron Hicks, a Republican, introduced a bill to legalize marijuana in Missouri, saying, “It’s coming. Whether we file legislation or not, it’s coming.” He argued that the legislature, not an initiated constitutional amendment, should legalize marijuana. “If it comes through the legislature, it can be fixed immediately. You don’t have to go gathering signatures or anything like that. I would like to see this as a law and not an initiative petition,” said Rep. Hicks.

If enough signatures are verified, it will make the ballot this November in Missouri. The minimum requirement of verified signatures needed to appear on the ballot in Missouri is calculated by 8% of the votes cast for governor in the previous gubernatorial election in six of the eight state congressional districts. The smallest possible requirement is 171,592. Often, campaigns collect beyond the signature requirement in case there are errors with some of the signatures submitted. Once these signatures are filed, they are sent to county election authorities to be verified.

In Missouri, 31 initiatives have appeared on the ballot from 1996 to 2020. Out of these 31 measures, 19 (59.4%) were approved and 13 (40.6%) were defeated.

Currently, there are three measures on the November 2022 ballot in Missouri, which are:

  • Amendment 1, which would authorize the state treasurer to invest in highly rated municipal securities
  • A Department of the National Guard Amendment, which would give the Missouri National Guard its own department
  • A constitutional convention question, which asks voters whether to hold a state constitutional convention.

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