Oklahomans To Decide On Recreational Marijuana On March 7

On March 7, Oklahomans across the state will go to the polls to answer one question: should recreational marijuana be legalized? To help you decide, News On 6 sat down with folks representing both sides of the issue.

Wednesday, March 1st 2023, 10:50 pm



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On March 7, Oklahomans across the state will go to the polls to answer one question: should recreational marijuana be legalized? To help you decide, News On 6 sat down with folks representing both sides of the issue.

WATCH: ACLU of Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel explains why he believes Oklahomans should vote 'YES' on State Question 820 on March 7.


WATCH: Former Gov. Frank Keating explains why he believes Oklahomans should vote 'NO' on State Question 820 on March 7.


“This isn't an enormous change at all. It's really a common-sense next step in our marijuana laws in Oklahoma,” says Ryan Kiesel, a senior consultant for the Yes on 820 campaign. “This would, if passed, allow Oklahomans, or really anyone that's 21 and over to purchase marijuana legally in the state. It would tax and regulate that, and then it also has some important criminal justice reform measures built in that would make low level marijuana offenses no longer through the criminal justice system.”

Those opposed, including former Governor Frank Keating, call it a big step in the wrong direction. “Well, it's bad for brains, it's bad for health, it's very bad for children. So, what are we doing?”

If passed, the state would tax recreational marijuana at a rate of 15 percent. Local governments would also be able to collect sales tax.

Studies by the Yes on 820 campaign say the state would bring in an additional $434 million over the first five years. After that, together medical and recreational would generate an estimated $101 million annually.

“The biggest part of that tax is going to go to healthcare and education in the state of Oklahoma, which are areas that we desperately need to invest in,” said Kiesel.

“Oklahoma would get more tax dollars. And would that not be a good thing to at least get money?” we asked.

“Well, you know, I have to laugh at that because, you know, if it passes, we'll be bringing in tax dollars from what source? I mean from the expenditure, the purchase of marijuana products that will severely damage public health,” answered Governor Keating. “What's happened in other jurisdictions that you have addiction problems, you'll have behavior problems, you'll have disorder, bipolar problems, and then they'll look to the state and say, ‘OK, where are the mental health authorities?’ Well, their money that's wrecking us goes to heal us. Why do we have to go through that circuit?”

“When we think about addiction, we see studies time and time again that show that addiction rates do not increase in states where you have medical and recreational marijuana programs,” said Kiesel. “That's just not the facts."

We did our own fact check. A recent study published last month in the journal Psychological Medicine found that there was an increase in usage in states that legalized recreational marijuana, but found no link between cannabis legalization and increases in cognitive, psychological, social, relationship or financial problems.

Click here to view the Psychological Medicine journal.

But the American Academy of Pediatrics said cannabis in adolescence can lead to problems with learning, focus, and problem-solving.

Click here for more from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Well, I care about my 11 grandchildren, and I think to have a federally prescribed narcotic for sale to anybody over 21 in this day, that's going to flow down to younger children, and it will be used by younger children and it will be very destructive to their brain health, their brain development,” said Governor Keating.

“It's going to be easier for kids to access. Isn't that a concern?” we asked Kiesel.

“I take that very seriously,” he answered. “And I think that Oklahoma parents can exercise common sense. We allow Oklahoma parents to exercise common sense with any number of things that could be dangerous to our children, you know whether that is making sure that they don't get into household cleaners or the laundry detergent pods.”

Kiesel argues legalization will make marijuana safer.

“Having a legal marijuana system means that when somebody walks into a dispensary and they purchase marijuana, that marijuana has been tested. If you buy that from somebody on the street, you have no idea where that came from and what we're talking about is safety,“ said Kiesel.

While Governor Keating saud we'll all know the effects whether we want to or not.

“Do you think we're going to see, if this passes, we're going to see people just out and about smoking?” we asked.

“If you have a Soccer game, young child with you and somebody is sitting in a park bench here at this park bench and they light up and there's just billowing marijuana smoke in your face and your child's face, you say ‘Please put that out’. ‘This is legal.’ And who would want that to happen to them or their child, not me," answered Governor Keating.

“We limit it to areas only where tobacco smoke can also be consumed,” countered Kiesel.

As we ended the interview, we asked both sides to talk directly to you.

“This is a once in a lifetime investment. It's going to lead to a safer, more prosperous state, new tools for law enforcement, new resources for law enforcement to go after those actors that aren't following the law,” said Kiesel.

“We don't need it in Oklahoma. It's a terrible scourge that would dramatically lessen the ability of our population to be healthy and quite truthfully lessen our ability to track business and industry for jobs because they will think that the Oklahoma workforce is stoned and we can't have any part of that,” said Governor Keating.  

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