Oklahoma’s medical cannabis efforts have reached a major milestone after a thwarted attempt that had advocates starting from scratch.
State Question 788 will appear on Oklahoma’s 2018 ballot. If it should pass, patients will be allowed to possess medical cannabis legally once they receive a state-issued ID. The Oklahoma Secretary of State certified the language of the ballot last week.
The push for legalized medical cannabis was led by Oklahomans For Health, which gathered the signatures needed to make State Question 788 a reality. However, former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt rewrote the question last fall, which significantly changed the details of the question. “Whether it’s the folks that signed this initiative petition or all of the voters who will ultimately have the chance to weigh in on whether or not Oklahoma will have medical marijuana, they should be able to do that without the attorney general injecting his personal political position into the ballot campaign by misrepresenting what the petitioners seek to accomplish,” said Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court has twice rejected revised language to the question. After Scott Pruitt joined the Trump Administration to run the Environmental Protection Agency, his successor Mike Hunter was disappointed by the court’s decision. “The ballot title was reviewed by the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the Court opted to substitute the original ballot title language,” said Hunter. “We disagree with that result, but respect the decision of the state’s highest court.”
What would legal medical marijuana look like in Oklahoma?
If State Question 788 passes, a state board would be established to license all aspects of a medical cannabis program, including cultivation, sales, and patient registration. Compared to other states with strictly-controlled programs, State Question 788 includes no qualifying conditions, and only requires the recommendation of a physician in order for patients to legally acquire medical cannabis. It also includes a brief but notable mandate that “no physician may be unduly stigmatized or harassed for signing a medical marijuana license application.”
788 would also decriminalize the possession of 1.5 ounces of cannabis or less for “persons who can state a medical condition, but not in possession of a state issued medical marijuana license…” The penalty would be limited to a $400 fine and a misdemeanor charge.
Unlike state medical marijuana programs that limit the amount of growers, 788 would set forth a specific criteria for commercial growers. As long as they meet the criteria, which includes residency requirements, they will be awarded a license and are able to grow cannabis without any limit on the number of plants.
Should this measure pass as written, it would be one of the most accessible medical marijuana programs among conservative states. In the 2016 election, 65.3 percent of voters picked Donald Trump, and local elections were comprised of Republican victories. Historically, cannabis legalization has been driven by liberal activists. But support for legalizing cannabis has skyrocketed over the last two decades, having gone from roughly 30 percent in favor in 2000 to 60 percent in favor as of 2016. This change has not phased GOP leaders nor members of the Trump Administration. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been clear on his position regarding cannabis, and recently indicated in an op-ed piece that he plans to reignite the failed “war on drugs.”