Cannabis activists in Oklahoma have withdrawn their legalization petition citing risks associated with signature-gathering during the coronavirus pandemic, the Oklahoman reports. Secretary of State Michael Rogers had paused signature collecting in March after the governor declared a stay-at-home order and the organizers said that action slowed the process and ultimately made it unfeasible to collect the 177,958 required signatures to get the issue on November ballots.
Campaign backer Ryan Kiesel said the earliest activists could make another push for a statewide referendum would be 2022.
“We have been put in a position of choosing between attempting to give Oklahomans an opportunity to adopt critical marijuana and criminal justice law reforms or protecting the health of ourselves and our fellow Oklahomans. As necessary as these reforms are for Oklahoma, we cannot in good conscience embark on a campaign that would require hundreds of thousands of interactions in the midst of a global pandemic.” – Kiesel to the Oklahoman
Kiesel, a former Democratic state lawmaker and current executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, called on lawmakers to enact the reforms but warned against “half-steps that do not address the damage caused by decades of broken marijuana policy.”
This is the third failed attempt to put a legalization question to Oklahoma voters in as many years. In 2018, activists were unable to collect enough signatures by the deadline. Last year, the campaign withdrew its petition due to concerns that broad legalization would have a negative impact on the medical cannabis program.
During the state’s stay-at-home order, medical cannabis sales boomed, setting a sales record of $61.4 million in April.