CANDIDATES seeking election to state and federal offices in Oklahoma have the next two months to convince voters of their merits. But the June 26 primary ballot includes more than individual races — a potentially damaging state question will be decided that day, too.
State Question 788 seeks to make “medical” marijuana legal in Oklahoma. The use of quote marks here is apt because the question is so broad that if it’s approved by voters, marijuana would be medical in name only — ours would be the most liberal medical marijuana law in the nation.
Under SQ 788, “no qualifying conditions” are needed for someone to obtain a marijuana prescription. Someone seeking a prescription (which is good for two years) would only need to “articulate a medical need.” This alone makes it a recipe for trouble.
The proposal requires that marijuana prescriptions be provided by an Oklahoma board-certified physician, but the broad language indicates that numerous professionals other than medical doctors or doctors of osteopathy will be able to do so. Given Oklahoma’s unfortunate problems with “pill mill” doctors, more oversight, not less, is needed than what SQ 788 allows. This is especially true because penalties for improperly dispensing the drug would only occur if the dispenser commits an undefined “gross discrepancy” in record-keeping that “cannot be explained.”
The volume of pot a person could possess under SQ 788 is excessive, and troubling — 3 ounces on their person, six mature plants and six seedling plants, 1 ounce of concentrated product, up to 72 ounces of edible product and 8 ounces in their residence. This is the equivalent of hundreds of marijuana joints per person. The language encourages users to grow pot themselves, raising enforcement and registration concerns.
No wonder the Oklahoma State Medical Association, the Department of Health and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuses Services all oppose SQ 788. They’re already working overtime on the myriad social and health issues facing the state.
The State Chamber and the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber also oppose SQ 788, because it potentially will tie business’ hands when dealing with employees who use medical marijuana. Business groups have tried to stifle marijuana legalization efforts in other locales for similar reasons.
Thirty states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. Those who support seeing Oklahoma join this list say the growing acceptance of pot, medically and recreationally, make its legalization here essentially a fait accompli, and that opponents are out of step. They cite the tax revenue that could be gained. They tout the drug’s healing qualities, and argue it can help with Oklahoma’s opioid problem because marijuana has no addictive properties to it.
We look to our neighbor, Colorado, and see the many issues that have resulted from legalization of recreational marijuana — additional tax revenue, yes, but also more youngsters using pot, more law enforcement costs, more illegal marijuana operations springing up — and don’t want to see them replicated here in any way. Oklahomans should reject SQ 788.