Does Oklahoma’s Failed Legalization Referendum Really Have Larger Implications?

Prohibitionists are fired up, but it’s unclear how they will adapt this latest misinformation campaign elsewhere

At this early juncture it’s already clear that relatively minor news about Oklahomans rejecting a ballot measure to fully legalize cannabis this week is going to be held up as a proxy by prohibitionists and media who just want to start shit for clicks.

It means doom for North Carolina and other states that are considering ending their long-standing prohibitions!

It will send a sign to Congress that the American public isn’t as tolerant of cannabis as previously thought!

Oklahomans have delivered a decisive message as a reaction to the volatile unregulated market that exists in their state under the current medical cannabis program!

Look for yourself, all that and more is being said. Mostly as evidence purportedly supporting whatever rhetoric somebody’s pushing. But it’s hogwash. Except for that last one, in a way …

While Sooner state voters rejected recreational weed because they don’t want more pot shops on top of the approximately 12,000 licensed businesses currently serving about 400,000 registered residents in their medical program, that mentality of course doesn’t make sense. On a simpler level, sure, they just want less cannabis, not more—but it’s at the deeper level where the complication in such prohibitionist thinking arises.

The average reactionary bozo pulled against the Oklahoma referendum because they were brainwashed by replays of Breaking Bad-level gray-market violence. It’s hard to convince robots who fancy themselves independents that the government can regulate its way out of a problem; instead, the people of that state decided to allow the mess that they already have on their hands to metastasize while, for better or worse, the apparatus in place there continues to be the national cannabis world’s freewheeling test lab complete of plenty of innovation and apparently real-life villains like Sly Stallone in that silly new Paramount Plus series Tulsa King.

Thankfully, not all media is equal, and there’s certainly some good reporting by those who actually understand the scene on the ground. Calder McHugh and Ari Hawkins of Politico even spoke with Paul Demko, their own outlet’s cannabis editor, for an email exclusive titled “RIP Tokelahoma” last night that I found pretty enlightening. For starters, he described what is already underway there as “the world’s wildest weed market,” where there “were initially no limits on business licenses, and licenses cost just $2,500 to obtain.” Furthermore, “local municipalities can’t prohibit marijuana businesses from operating, as they can in most states,” and “there are no qualifying conditions required to enroll in the medical program, so pretty much anyone qualifies.”

But what I think is most important to consider is the bullshit deluge that opponents brought along with plenty of money and fear to woo the stupid. As Demko explained, “there were definitely unique circumstances in Oklahoma that caused huge problems for legalization advocates. There have been dozens of raids on illegal grows across the state over the last two years, with law enforcement officials saying that many have ties to organized crime. … This constant stream of negative headlines has really tarnished the medical program in the eyes of many Oklahomans.”

Furthermore, “The opposition campaign was far more organized than you’ve seen recently in many states…. But perhaps more significantly, law enforcement was extremely galvanized and vocal in their opposition to the ballot measure. Their message was pretty simple and apparently persuasive: Recreational legalization will only make the crime problems associated with the medical program exponentially worse.”

So lies, basically. 

In the aftermath, Demko’s take is that “the lesson legalization advocates should take from Oklahoma is that the promise of a safe, taxed, regulated market for a product that millions of Americans already consume better match reality,” and that “legalization opponents will see Oklahoma as a lifeline for stopping the [pro-cannabis] movement.”

I don’t disagree, but I’m also not putting much stock in the Oklahoma results. As for jackasses in other states who want to waste their time fearmongering despite the seeming inevitability of federal legalization, I’m just saying that it would be more productive if they gave in, learned to roll great joints, and watched Hulu and Netflix for the next few years. They might even catch a documentary or two that shows them how, despite any small wins that come along the way, efforts to stop the movement at this juncture are as futile as they are misguided.

Talking Joints Potcast