Solving the Oklahoma state budget by legalizing cannabis

Clayton Hedges, Memorial Staff Writer

As the end of the fiscal year draws near, images of the Oklahoma teacher walkout should still be present on the minds of politicians at the State Capital. Similarly to last year, the state budget is, once again, the main focus of Oklahoma representatives.

During the educators peaceful protest beginning on April 2, 2018, the decision to provide more funds was made; however, a major repercussion from this was that many government programs like the Office of Juvenile Affairs, Department of Health and Department of Transportation were not allowed to recover from previous budget cuts.

Yet there is a way for Oklahoma representatives to help provide more funding to these other programs; during the November elections, there were many state questions that were voted on and one of the few that passed was State Question 788, the legalization of medicinal marijuana.

In just the two short months since the law was put into effect, Oklahoma has raked in over $12 million in revenue through medicinal cannabis sales and there is an upward trend that presents a potential growth for the next few months. These mind-boggling numbers can only continue grow once one looks towards the potential of recreational cannabis and the gains that could come from the legalization of it. Over the last fiscal year, Colorado has made over $1.5 billion off of marijuana sales.

Concerns about marijuana will still be present for voters because many Americans believe that with legalization comes higher crime rates and an influx of under-aged users. However, Colorado released five years worth the statistics over marijuana related crime and found that there were less teens caught with marijuana and that criminal activity dropped by an average of 13%.

One major discovery from this study was a dramatic increase in organized crime busts; most of these busts came from syndicates attempting to use legitimate businesses as fronts. This should be unsurprising though when considering the fact that underground organizations receive up to 45% of their revenue from previously illegal dealings.

When looking at the statistics from Colorado, the reduced crime rates alone would be a good enough reason to legalize recreational marijuana. This paired with the financial boon available to the the government could help the state of Oklahoma provide more capital to the many state financed programs that are in need of funding. The stereotype and stigma of marijuana should not prevent government officials from taking advantage of the present opportunity.

Contact Clayton Hedges at [email protected]