Source: US News, Steven Nelson May 08 2014
Marijuana advocates say the Bible Belt state could reap an economic boom.
Marijuana reform advocates hope Oklahoma will live up to its nickname – the Sooner State – by becoming the first U.S. jurisdiction to both legalize cannabis for personal use and allow it to be exported as a cash crop.
In the best-case scenario for pro-pot campaigners, there will be two initiatives on the November ballot: One that would allow medical marijuana and another more far-reaching initiative that would comprehensively dismantle status quo pot policies.
The medical marijuana initiative is further along. On May 18 supporters will begin collecting the required 155,216 signatures for ballot access – if opponents do not file a challenge with the state’s supreme court.
The outright legalization initiative is currently being finalized and its backers – led by state Sen. Connie Johnson, a Democrat – hope to file it with the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s office as early as Friday.
“There is quiet, silent support, not only because our laws are ridiculous but because people either have used it or know someone who has, and all of the doomsday expectations just are not true,” says Johnson.
If the initiative makes the ballot and wins approval by voters it would legalize possession of 1 ounce of marijuana for personal use by adults 21 and older – or 1.5 ounces for doctor-approved medical use. It would allow residents to grow six plants at home.
The initiative would also reduce penalties for people possessing more than 1 ounce and for adults aged 18-21 by erasing from the books a state law that makes possession of any amount of marijuana a felony after a person is convicted of a first offense.
Localities would be able to regulate the location of recreational marijuana stores, but unlike Colorado’s legalization law they would not be allowed to block stores altogether. Unlike Washington state’s legalization law, residents will be able to give – but not sell – pot to friends.
Out of concern for low-income residents, the tax rate would be roughly in line with the state sales tax.
In what would be the most groundbreaking part of the package, the initiative would allow commercial farms to export marijuana to states where it’s legal for recreational or medicinal use.
“Oklahoma could be an agriculture state for marijuana,” says Oklahoma City defense attorney David Slane, who wrote the initiative with Johnson.
Slane says “instead of us just growing wheat, we could grow marijuana – it could be a real crop,” ideally boosting the state’s economy.
“It could be cultivated, packaged and sold right here in Oklahoma, and our law would allow it to be transported to other states where it is legal. That’s all we say in our law,” he says.
There are “a lot of questions we don’t have the answer to” about how the export business would work, Slane says, particularly how marijuana would be transported through states where it remains illegal. He says that issue would likely be resolved with input from the U.S. Department of Justice.
The earliest legalization campaigners could begin collecting signatures is late May.
Editorial Cartoons on Pot Legalization
After the proposal is filed with the Secretary of State’s office, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has a maximum of 15 business days to review and possibly rewrite the ballot title. There’s then a 10 calendar day challenge period before petitioning can begin.
Initiative supporters would then have 90 days to acquire 155,216 valid signatures. Officials with the Secretary of State’s office say there’s no official cut off date for ballot access – but signatures must be validated, followed by another 10-day challenge period, before an initiative is put on the ballot.
Slane is prepared to sue state officials if they attempt to scuttle the initiative’s path toward the ballot.
“It’s counterintuitive as a lawyer to do this … I’ll probably lose money,” Slane says. “No, I don’t smoke marijuana and no, it isn’t done for any business purpose. I’m seeing young people’s lives ruined with felony convictions for marijuana and it’s just not right. I don’t think that marijuana is any worse than alcohol.”
Article source: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/05/08/oklahoma-pot-legalization-cannabis-cash-crop?page=2