"A commonsense proposal": Wikinews interviews Michelle Tilley, Campaign Director for Yes on 820

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Marijuana plants.
Image: Jennifer Martin.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

On March 7, voters in the US state of Oklahoma will decide on State Question 820, the Marijuana Legalization Initiative.

If the initiative passes, adults 21 and older could own up to an ounce (28.35 grams) of recreational marijuana and cultivate "not more than six (6) mature marijuana plants and six (6) seedlings" in their homes, and some convictions for marijuana possession could be expunged.

The state's profits earned by taxing marijuana transactions would fund the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, while the rest would be split between: the state's fund pool (30%), programs in public schools to improve student success, extracurricular activities, and decrease drug abuse (30%), governmental and nonprofit programs to counter drug abuse (20%), courts (10%), and the local government where the transaction occurred (10%).

Wikinews emailed interview questions to the Yes campaign on January 6; Michelle Tilley, their Campaign Director, responded on January 11. The following is the interview with Tilley.

Interview with Michelle Tilley


First, can you briefly explain what you see as the main problem(s) with Oklahoma's current marijuana laws?

A map showing the legal status of cannabis in the United States.

██ Legal for recreational use

██ Legal for medical use

██ Illegal

   D    Decriminalized

Image: Lokal_Profil.

((Michelle Tilley)) Oklahoma currently allows residents to apply for a medical marijuana license, with a doctor’s referral, from the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority. This means that marijuana is illegal for adults to consume or possess for non-medical purposes. 

State Question 820, which the people of Oklahoma will vote on this March 7, 2023, proposes to safely legalize, regulate, and tax recreational marijuana for adults over 21 years of age. 

Legalizing marijuana for adults over 21 would have a significant and positive economic and fiscal impact for the state. Passage of SQ 820 would lead to the collection of tens of millions in new tax revenue in the first year of implementation and hundreds of millions in the first five years. This revenue could offer a significant boost to Oklahoma’s underfunded public schools, law enforcement agencies, mental health programs and other priorities. Furthermore, local economies, in every town, large and small, would benefit from good paying jobs and new sales tax dollars that will stay in local communities. 

Passage of SQ 820 would also represent a positive alignment of Oklahoma’s public safety priorities: Law enforcement would be able to devote their limited resources away from low level marijuana offenses, focusing instead on serious crimes. Meanwhile, Oklahoma would become a more just state, because 820 allows Oklahomans with old convictions for low level marijuana crimes to remove those offenses from their criminal history, making it easier to find gainful employment and move on with their lives. 

Finally, SQ 820 would provide a sensible and safe regulatory framework. Under SQ 820, all marijuana products would be tested, safe, and only available to adults aged 21 and older (unless you have a medical marijuana card). Each product will be analyzed to determine potency and screened for unsafe contaminants. All marijuana and related products will be tracked, traced, and accurately labeled in an inventory system from seed to sale.

((WN)) What would Initiative 820 do to rectify these problems?

((Michelle Tilley)) See above

((WN)) How would you respond to claims that legalizing marijuana would create a "slippery slope" towards total legalization of drugs, and, in fact, do you think that would be a bad thing?

((Michelle Tilley)) SQ 820 does not propose to legalize any substances other than marijuana. 

((WN)) What or who are some businesses, organizations, or individuals supporting Initiative 820 who voters might not expect to support it, and why are they?

((Michelle Tilley)) State Question 820 is supported by:

  • Oklahomans who want a significant source of new revenue to support important public priorities like education, health care, and transportation needs. This includes parents who want more resources for their kids’ schools, patients concerned about the cost or availability of health care resources, and people who don’t want to run over potholes on the way to work; 
  • Businesses and families who know their communities can benefit from the good jobs and investment of a multi-billion dollar industry; 
  • Members of the legal and law enforcement community who are tired of wasting their time and resources on low level marijuana offenses instead of fighting more serious criminal activity; and
  • Adults interested in using cannabis for non-medical purposes.

((WN)) Lastly, why do you think Initiative 820 will succeed?

A treemap showing industries in Oklahoma's economy by employment according to 2020 estimates. The size of the industry is represented by its percentage of the employed population.
Image: Datawheel, LLC.

((Michelle Tilley)) SQ 820 will succeed because Oklahomans want more resources for priorities like education; we want the economic boost that comes with supporting a new, multi-billion dollar industry; and we want to reap the public safety benefits that come with refocusing law enforcement on dangerous criminal activity instead of minor marijuana offenses. This is a commonsense proposal that will help make Oklahoma a stronger, more prosperous and more just state.


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.