Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly rejected recreational marijuana legalization on Tuesday, hitting the brakes on what’s become the wildest weed market over the last five years. The Associated Press called the contest with two thirds of precincts counted and the petition failing by more than a 20-point margin. The state’s booming medical program — with roughly 12,000 licensed businesses and nearly 400,000 enrolled patients — won’t be immediately impacted by the election defeat, Politico reports. Many marijuana legalization advocates fear that the outcome will embolden state lawmakers who have long been wary of the freewheeling medical program to step up their efforts to put stricter limits on the marketplace. “The anti-revolutionary forces want to return Oklahoma to their dream of this bygone era,” said Lawrence Pasternack, a legalization advocate. “They see marijuana as anathema to that dream.”
The rejection of the Oklahoma referendum marks the latest ballot failure for legalization advocates in recent months. Voters in Arkansas, South Dakota and North Dakota defeated legalization referendums in November, while voters in Maryland and Missouri approved adult-use legalization petitions. Oklahoma voters backed medical marijuana legalization by a double-digit margin in 2018, despite overwhelming opposition from elected officials, health care groups and business interests. The medical program doesn’t require a pre-existing condition to qualify, so pretty much anyone can get a medical card. There were also initially no limits on business licenses, and they cost just $2,500. Last year, lawmakers implemented a two-year moratorium on new licenses that took effect in August. Legalization supporters touted the potential economic benefits of full legalization, particularly the tax windfall that would come from out-of-state shoppers from Texas and other neighboring states.