SQ 780 and SQ 781

SQ 780 and SQ 781 were closely-related ballot initiatives approved by Oklahoma voters in 2016. SQ 780 reclassified simple drug possession and some minor property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. SQ 781 directed the Office of Management and Enterprise Services to calculate the savings to the state of these changes and to deposit that amount into a fund used by county governments to provide substance abuse and mental health services. Both measures involved statutory, rather than constitutional, changes.

SQ 780 went into effect on July 1, 2017 and had an immediate impact in reducing the number of felony filings in the state. In 2019, the Legislature passed HB 1269 making the provisions of SQ 780 retroactive, which allowed those convicted of felonies for crimes that became misdemeanors following passage of SQ 780  to apply to have their sentences commuted by the Pardon and Parole Board. An initial group of over 450 inmates had their sentences commuted by Governor Stitt in November 2019.

After several years when some legislators tried unsuccessfully to roll back provisions of SQ 780, the Legislature in 2023 passed HB 2153 that partially reverses SQ 780 by including mandatory jail time and optional diversion programs for multiple convictions involving simple possession of most drugs.

Until 2023, the Legislature consistently failed to adhere to the requirement of SQ 781 that the savings attributable to SQ 780 be made available to county governments for mental health and substance abuse services. However, in 2023, it passed a bill directing the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to direct $12.5 million to the County Community Safety Investment Fund. As of 2023, the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency is tasked with calculating the annual savings attributable to SQ 780.