Mar­i­huana medic­i­nal

Could med­i­cal mar­i­juana hap­pen here?

La Semana - - FRONT PAGE / PORTADA - POR WIL­LIAM R. WYNN bill@lase­m­anadel­ | TULSA, OK

In less than a month, Ok­la­homa could be­come the 31st state to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana for medic­i­nal use, should State Ques­tion 788 be ap­proved by the vot­ers on June 26. Cur­rently 29 states and the District of Columbia have broadly le­gal­ized med­i­cal mar­i­juana in all its forms, while Louisiana al­lows non-smok­able medic­i­nal cannabis prod­ucts.

What pas­sage of SQ 788 would mean is that in­di­vid­u­als 18 years of age or older could be ad­min­is­tered a med­i­cal mar­i­juana li­cense – signed by a physi­cian, cost­ing $100 and valid for two years – that would al­low them to le­gally use and pos­sess mar­i­juana.

The web­site bal­lot­pe­dia ex­plains the pro­posed change to Ok­la­homa law this way:

“In­di­vid­u­als pos­sess­ing a med­i­cal mar­i­juana li­cense would be au­tho­rized to con­sume mar­i­juana and pos­sess up to three ounces on their per­sons, six ma­ture and six seedling mar­i­juana plants, up to one ounce of con­cen­trated mar­i­juana, up to 72 ounces of edi­ble mar­i­juana, and up to eight ounces of mar­i­juana in their res­i­dences. Lo­cal gov­ern­ments would be em­pow­ered to en­act guide­lines al­low­ing re­cip­i­ents to ex­ceed the state­man­dated pos­ses­sion lim­its. Pos­sess­ing up to 1.5 ounces of mar­i­juana with­out a li­cense but with a med­i­cal con­di­tion would be deemed a mis­de­meanor.”

The mea­sure does not spec­ify any spe­cific med­i­cal con­di­tions nec­es­sary to ob­tain the li­cense, but the doc­u­ment would need to be signed by an “Ok­la­homa Board Cer­ti­fied Physi­cian.”

Con­di­tions for which mar­i­juana is com­monly pre­scribed in other states and coun­tries in­clude de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety, glau­coma, chronic pain, mus­cle spasms, and many other ail­ments, but the drug is per­haps best known as a way to re­me­di­ate the symp­toms of chemo­ther­apy and ra­di­a­tion treat­ment for cancer pa­tients.

For those suf­fer­ing from such health is­sues, a change in the law can’t come quickly enough.

La Se­m­ana spoke with a cancer sur­vivor who said that med­i­cal mar­i­juana made a huge dif­fer­ence in his abil­ity to tol­er­ate painful ra­di­a­tion ther­apy, but noted that be­cause of cur­rent state law he had to ob­tain a pre­scrip­tion in an­other state.

“It would be have been eas­ier, more con­ve­nient, and less ex­pen­sive to deal with a lo­cal med­i­cal cannabis dis­pen­sary such as those lo­cated in the far western states,” he said.

Other states have seen an added ben­e­fit in the form of badly needed tax rev­enue, which has meant mil­lions more dol­lars in state trea­suries each year, money that can be used for health care, ed­u­ca­tion, and other vi­tal but un­der­funded pro­grams.

Com­mu­nity ac­tivist and former state leg­is­la­tor Dr. Bruce Niemi ex­plained what taxing med­i­cal mar­i­juana could mean for the sooner state.

“The tax rates on cannabis prod­ucts would be a boost to state cof­fers dev­as­tated by [Ok­la­homa Gov­er­nor Mary] Fallin era tax cuts,” Niemi pre­dicted. “This could go a long way to­ward fund­ing class size re­duc­tions, school sup­plies, men­tal health ser­vices, etc.”

The pro­posal to be de­cided on June 26 would tax medic­i­nal mar­i­juana at a rate of seven per­cent.

But does the mea­sure have a chance in deeply con­ser­va­tive Ok­la­homa? Sup­port­ers note that it hap­pened in neigh­bor­ing Ar­kan­sas, which is just as con­ser­va­tive as Ok­la­homa.

Niemi ob­served that the June 26 date to vote on the is­sue co­in­cides with a pri­mary dom­i­nated by Re­pub­li­can races, which could mean less peo­ple who are more philo­soph­i­cally in­clined to sup­port med­i­cal mar­i­juana go­ing to vote on elec­tion day.

“It de­pends on turnout,” Niemi ex­plained. “With many can­di­dates on the Re­pub­li­can pri­mary bal­lot it could be sketchy given the propen­sity of con­ser­va­tive evan­gel­i­cals to vote in these in­tra­mu­ral con­tests. How­ever, In­de­pen­dents can both vote on the ref­er­en­dum and in the demo­cratic pri­mary. These vot­ers and young democrats are more in­clined to sup­port this mea­sure -- if they show up at the polls.” (La Se­m­ana)

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