Yesterday, Oklahoma became the second of Missouri’s bordering states to put forth a vote for recreational marijuana legalization in the last 6 months.
Like Arkansas in November, Oklahoma voters rejected the measure to expand the state’s existing medical laws to include adult use sales.
For many advocates, Oklahoma has been the closest market to what is termed the “tomato model” of regulation. The idea being that marijuana and marijuana businesses should be treated no differently than tomatoes in terms of regulation and restriction. While that makes sense in to most people in theory – it’s impractical for a multitude of reasons. The first and most glaring point is that the base of the argument revolves around the idea that because marijuana is a plant it should not be subject to regulation. But the reality is dozens, if not hundreds of plants, are already subject to regulation.
A more apt approach would be to view marijuana similarly to tobacco, a plant legal to grow for personal use, but highly regulated for sale and manufacture.
Moving past the initial flaws of the tomato model, the second significant flaw seen in underregulated markets and unlimited licensing is that with marijuana still remaining illegal at a federal level, diversion remains a significant issue.
Oklahoma regulators were so underprepared and overwhelmed by the number of licenses issued that in 2022 the state issued a moratorium on licenses. Oklahoma has more than 2800 licensed dispensaries, comparatively, the state has only 1800 gas stations.
On Tuesday, five years after the legalization of medical marijuana, voters overwhelmingly rejected State Question 820, the measure which would have legalized adult use marijuana in Oklahoma. With more than 349,000 votes – 62% of voters voted against legalization.
Political leaders, like Governor Kevin Stitt, as well as organizations like Oklahoma Farm Bureau, the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, and American Farmers and Ranchers point to factors like failures in regulation, declining property values, and the amount of diversion in Oklahoma’s existing medical market as reasons they believe the measure failed.
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