Could medical marijuana happen here?
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)