On March 7, Oklahoma voters went to the polls for a special election to consider State Question 820, which would have legalized the use of recreational marijuana in Oklahoma.
In a landslide vote, SQ 820 was defeated, with 61.7 percent voting no, and 38.3 percent voting yes. With a total of more than 566,000 people voting, a majority of voters in all 77 counties of Oklahoma voted against the controversial measure.
Oklahoma Baptists and churches across the state took an active role in opposing the measure. In November 2022, messengers to the Oklahoma Baptists annual meeting voiced opposition to recreational marijuana, becoming the first faith group to speak against the policy.
After the election results were known, on social media on March 7, Todd Fisher, Oklahoma Baptists executive director-treasurer said, “Way to go Oklahoma! I am very grateful for the huge amount of energy and work Oklahoma Baptists… gave toward the defeat of SQ 820.”
Oklahoma Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Committee (ERLC) and the Baptist Messenger prepared specific materials for pastors and churches to use, which included a research-based fact sheet/bulletin insert, infographics, announcement slides for churches, articles, social media graphics and more.
Many Oklahoma Baptist pastors made a point to speak to the issue from the pulpit and in other settings. Norman, Trinity hosted two Wednesday evening events in February to address the topic.
Ryan Polk, associate pastor of Norman, Trinity, said, “Marijuana use in Oklahoma is already out of control. Substance addiction is negatively affecting individuals and families. SQ 820 would have only added to the devastating consequences we are seeing, and we wanted to equip our members and others with moral and biblical reasons to reject this state question.”
In 2018, Oklahoma voters had approved State Question 788, which was presented to voters as approving of medical marijuana. Since that vote, Oklahoma has become the leading state in the number of medical marijuana dispensaries, with more than 2,300.
The Baptist Messenger published numerous editorials and articles on the topic, and editor Brian Hobbs spoke out in various media interviews. The Baptist Messenger also produced a podcast episode featuring Pastor Kenny Mossman of Carnegie, First and Pastor Jeremy Smith of Midwest City, Eastwood, each of whom opposed the measure.
Mossman referred to the vote as a “line in the sand” moment in Oklahoma’s culture, and Smith, who serves on the Oklahoma Baptists’ ERLC Committee, warned about the consequences of normalizing marijuana and other drugs.
Sources indicate the “Yes on 820” group outspent the “No on 820” organization by a large margin, as estimated 10 to one ratio, with millions of dollars poured into the Yes vote campaign from groups including the ACLU.
Oklahoma Baptists participated in the official No On SQ 820 campaign, through the Oklahoma Faith Coalition, which brought together various faith groups opposing the measure.
“This is a great moment for Oklahoma,” Hobbs said. “Oklahoma Baptist pastors, churches and associations came together to say, ‘enough is enough’ when it comes to the explosive growth of marijuana in our state. While there is much more work to be done to help those facing substance abuse and to stem the tide of marijuana in Oklahoma, this resounding victory is a blessing attributable only to the Lord.”
To view information and articles on the topic, visit oklahomabaptists.org/sq820.