- By Sam Cabral
- BBC News, Washington DC
Voters in Oklahoma have overwhelmingly rejected a state-wide referendum to legalise cannabis for recreational use.
The state already has a booming medical marijuana industry, but Tuesday’s ballot question would have allowed dispensaries across the state to sell cannabis to anyone over the age of 21.
The proposal was widely opposed by law enforcement, school administrators, and political and faith leaders.
It comes five years after voters there approved cannabis for medicinal use.
In addition to effectively decriminalising cannabis use, State Question 820 also sought to impose an excise tax on cannabis sales and to expunge cannabis-related criminal convictions.
Supporters of the measure spent nearly $5m (£4.2m), according to campaign finance reports, outspending their opponents 20-to-one.
About 10% of the adult population now has a medical license, but the programme has been plagued by illegal growers, headline-grabbing crimes and a deluge of out-of-state consumers.
Pat McFerron, an advisor to the No 820 campaign, said the vote “sends a clear message that Oklahomans oppose the unfettered access to marijuana we have experienced under our so-called medical programme”.
“Oklahoma is a law and order state,” added Governor Kevin Stitt, a Republican who also opposed the measure. He vowed to “continue to hold bad actors accountable and crack down on illegal marijuana operations”.
But Michelle Tilley, who ran the Yes on 820 campaign, said hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans already used the drug in some capacity, and that cannabis legalisation in the state was inevitable.
“I challenge our legislature, I challenge our governor, this in your hands now,” she said.
Last November, similar cannabis referendums were approved in Maryland and Missouri, but defeated in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Currently, 37 states have medical cannabis laws on the books, while 21 states allow adult recreational use.