Tuesday’s special election in Oklahoma resulted in a resounding defeat for a marijuana legalization ballot initiative—but recent comments from the state attorney general signal that the door may be open to some level of reform as it relates to expungements.
Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond (R) shared the governor’s opposition to the legalization measure that all of the states 77 counties ultimately rejected this week. However, he said that there’s merit to at least one component of the proposal: Removing prior non-violent cannabis convictions from peoples’ records.
He didn’t say that he would take unilateral action to facilitate the relief, but asked ahead of the election whether he’d work with lawmakers on marijuana expungements legislation, Drummond told The Black Wall Street Times last week that the “thought crossed my head when [Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt] said he smoked pot in college.”
“I thought, what if he had been arrested? His life would’ve taken a different path,” the attorney general said.
He added that, if the legalization initiative ultimately failed, he felt that, “in the spirit of criminal justice reform, marijuana possession and consumption should be addressed. And there should be a mechanism considered by the legislature that I’m happy to administer toward the expungement of those things.”
A spokesperson for Drummond’s office also made a statement following the election reiterating the official’s interest in advancing the conversation around expungements.
“While Attorney General Drummond is pleased with the decision voters made in rejecting SQ 820, he believes there is a worthwhile discussion to be had about record expungement for marijuana possession and consumption,” the spokesperson said in a story published on Thursday.
It remains to be seen if there’s an appetite for that kind of reform in the conservative legislature, where some members feel the priority should be addressing issues with the state’s existing medical cannabis program.
Beside providing a pathway for expungements, the ballot measure that voters defeated on Tuesday would have allowed adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis, grow up to six mature plants and six seedings for personal use. Regulators would have been able to license various types of marijuana businesses, and cannabis products would have been taxed at 15 percent.
Recreational legalization was projected to bring the state more than $100 million in new revenue annually, or about $434 million between 2024 and 2028, according to a separate analysis commissioned by the ballot initiative campaign.
While the governor strongly opposed the legalization proposal, he did say last year that he thinks the federal government should end prohibition to “solve a lot of issues from all these different states” that have legalized cannabis. He also said last year that he thought Oklahoma voters were misled into approving an earlier medical cannabis legalization initiative in 2018.
State Republican Party leaders and GOP elected officials had also urged voters to reject the recreational marijuana legalization measure.