I am still amazed and thrilled with the result of the March 7 state election. Oklahoma had a special election for State Question 820, which addressed legalizing recreational marijuana. SQ 820 lost by a wide margin, 62-38 percent, rejecting the proposal.
Maybe this result caught some people by surprise since medical marijuana was approved in Oklahoma during a 2018 primary election. Maybe some people believed the election result would have been closer.
In this DHD, I offer six takeaways from this election.
- Across the board NO support
Oklahoma Baptists were out in front, opposing SQ 820. It was reported we were the first faith group to speak against recreational marijuana, but different denominations through the Oklahoma Faith Coalition were on board to support the NO vote.
And this was not just a religious opposition. Many state leaders among various groups were actively speaking out against SQ 820. Terri White, an expert in mental health and substance abuse, wrote an excellent column in the Oklahoman, stating her opposition is “based on science” and emphasizing how marijuana has a negative impact on individuals, families and communities. White boldly stated that SQ 820 is “really like a Ponzi scheme.”
Former governor Frank Keating led a coalition against SQ 820. Business leaders, farmers, ranchers and law authorities also voice opposition.
Though the work Oklahoma Baptists did was exceptional, there are many groups who also should be credited for defeating SQ 820.
- Breakdown of voting
It should not be overlooked how impressive this election victory was for NO voters. Not a single county supported SQ 820. It was defeated handily. If you want to see how the counties voted, visit this site for the breakdown.
The three largest Oklahoma counties (Oklahoma, Tulsa and Cleveland) had the narrowest victory reports. Tulsa County declared a NO win by 6,500 votes (53 percent); Cleveland County had NO winning by 800 votes (50.96 percent), and Oklahoma County had the slimmest NO win by only 36 votes (50.04 percent).
I will say more about Oklahoma County in the next point, but the rest of the state did not have nearly as close of vote results, as all other counties had NO winning by 60 percent or more. Many won by 70 or 80 percent.
This is why it was important for everyone across the state to participate in this election.
- Oklahoma County voting—all over the map (literally!)
The website I mentioned is resourceful. Okelections.us provides a breakdown on the precincts in Oklahoma County. I could spend hours moving my cursor over the different precincts to see the voting results.
As a resident of The Village, I took special interest in those four precincts. Overall, The Village voted in favor of SQ 820, 924 YES votes to 692 NO votes (57 percent).
All the precinct results in Oklahoma County were fascinating to me, as I could find a cluster of voting areas that favored YES, but right in the middle of the YES cluster would be a precinct that favored NO. The opposite would also occur with many NO precincts surrounding a standalone YES group.
The Oklahoma City metro, as well as Tulsa and Norman, demonstrate diversity when it comes to views on social issues. However, NO still prevailed in these areas, and that should not be disregarded.
- ‘Buyer’s remorse’
Since Oklahoma approved medical marijuana in 2018, why was there such an opposite result for recreational marijuana this year?
A friend of mine summed it up well. He called it “buyer’s remorse.”
Pat McFerron, a political consultant who organized the No 820 campaign, gave a great explanation to the Oklahoman. “I think this is the voters saying, ‘We voted for medical marijuana, but that’s not what we got,’” he said.
With the oversaturation of marijuana dispensaries, increase in crime, decrease in work production, attraction of organized crime and purchasing of land to grow marijuana, Oklahomans proved this is not what was expected when medical marijuana was approved five years ago.
This was a wake-up call for the marijuana industry. The industry’s response to the 2018 election was excessive. Oklahoma is known for being a conservative state but also one of being compassionate and caring, which would be why many voters arguably believed having medical marijuana in our state could be helpful. Now, such voters believe they were duped, or they are overwhelmed with the excessiveness that has happened in the past five years.
- Legalization not decriminalization
This election response also saw voters not agreeing with the YES campaign’s rhetoric of saying SQ 820 was “not about legalizing marijuana,” but rather, it was supposedly about keeping marijuana users out of the legal system.
The truth is, SQ 820 was not worded how YES supporters claimed. NO voters understood the difference between legalization and decriminalization, and SQ 820 did not communicate decriminalization.
In the Baptist Messenger office, we received a critical email before the election from a YES supporter, claiming we needed to “do better” on defending the NO viewpoint. Well, from the election results, it seemed like we were much more effective than those who supported YES.
- Still more to do
This was a great victory for those who are against marijuana use in Oklahoma. However, marijuana is still prevalent in our state. Oklahoma Baptists especially need to be aware of the results of the many people who are becoming addicted and how marijuana affects families and communities.
I appreciate what Jeremy Smith wrote a few years ago. The pastor of Midwest City, Eastwood offered constructive guidance for Oklahoma Baptists in the aftermath of the state legalizing medical marijuana.
“Yes, this law has failed us,” Smith wrote. “However, law is always an external force. With all moral and ethical issues, the law may help, but true transformation is internal. Until a person experiences an internal transformation, he will continue to convince himself that what he is doing is working or will work. It is the nature of sin to convince people that destructive behaviors are helpful.”
Oklahoma Baptists have made it a point to embrace brokenness in our communities as an opportunity to advance the Gospel. Smith applied this mission in how we should respond to the current status of drug use in Oklahoma.
“We, as the church, have something more to offer,” he said. “Perhaps, in years to come, we will see new churches open where dispensaries have closed. Perhaps these churches will be filled with people who finally, by the grace of God, found the answer for the emptiness in their lives. This can and will happen as we confront our culture and lovingly engage with people to point them to the Savior!”