State Question 820 is white elephant

by Steve Fair

On Tuesday, March 7, Oklahoma voters will go to the polls and vote on State Question 820. If approved, it would create a state law legalizing recreational use of marijuana for persons 21 or older. It would add a 15% excise tax incremental recreational use sales tax to the other taxes already on legal pot.  The last day to request an absentee ballot for the election is Monday, Feb. 20. In person early voting will be available on Thursday March 2 and Friday March 3 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Proponents of SQ 820 assert passage will safely regulate and tax weed in the Sooner state, generate millions of dollars for state government to spend on schools, health care and public safety and expunge criminal records of people who they say, “made one small mistake.” They also claim it would generate an estimated $821 million of tax revenue over a five-year period.

Those opposed to SQ 820 point to state data that shows a 4,000% increase in children overdosing on cannabis since medical marijuana became legal in Oklahoma in 2018.  

“People want to say that this (SQ820) is good tax revenue for the state, but if we were to do this, no amount of money is worth putting our kids at risk,” Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn maintains.  

Three observations about SQ#820:

First, marijuana can often be a gateway drug. The National Institute of Drug Abuse found adults who reported using weed were more than likely to abuse other harder drugs. In other words, those who used marijuana often went to other harder drugs. That is supported by data from the Centers of Disease Control(CDC).

The CDC says there are multiple short and long-term effects of marijuana on the brain. They suggest frequent use of pot can cause disorientation, anxiety, paranoia, and depression. The CDC says temporary psychosis and schizophrenia are also more likely to be developed by those who use cannabis.  

Second, sin taxes don’t overset their cost to communities. Taxes on alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and medical marijuana may generate revenue for state government, but their expansion has been devastating to communities and families. From increased crime to addictions, the financial impact has been of negative net effect to the state.   

Third, medical marijuana should be regulated like other medications. Few dispute that weed has medicinal benefits for certain medical conditions, but clearly Oklahoma’s current ‘medical marijuana’ law needs to be addressed.  When 10% of Oklahomans (376,000)  have a medical marijuana card, clearly much of the use is not “medical” in nature. Oklahoma, by far, has the highest share in the country of percent of population according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

Most Oklahomans are unaware there is an election on Tuesday March 7. Because of that, voter turnout will likely be low.  There is no doubt proponents of SQ 820 will show up. Opponents of the proposal must vote to stop expansion of drug use in the state.  

There are two primary reasons Oklahomans should vote no on State Question 820.  The first is the expungement component of SQ 820. Who is eligible for expungement is ambiguous/obscure/unclear.  The second reason is because recreational use of marijuana is bad public policy.  The challenges legal pot creates dramatically offset the tax benefits.  Increased addiction and crime is not something to promote in Oklahoma.  SQ 820 is a white elephant investment.  

Steve Fair is Chairman of the 4th district of the Oklahoma Republican Party.  He can be reached by email at His blog is