By Tim Farley
Medical marijuana is the law of the land – at least for now.
On Tuesday, 57 percent of Oklahomans casting ballots on State Question 788 supported the measure making Oklahoma the 30th state in the nation with some form of medical marijuana.
Statewide, more than 890,000 people voted on the measure. In Canadian County, more than 34,000 voters were cast ballots on the marijuana issue. In Kingfisher County, 4,257 voters cast ballots on the marijuana measure.
Canadian County voters approved the measure with 55 percent of the total vote while Kingfisher voters defeated the issue with almost 60 percent of all registered voters against the proposal.
Bud Scott, executive director of New Health Solutions Oklahoma, Inc., the trade association for the medical cannabis industry in Oklahoma, said the vote was a victory for Oklahomans who suffer from a variety of medical conditions.
“Almost all of us know someone who is suffering from cancer, PTSD, seizures, or one of the dozens of medical conditions and illnesses that medical cannabis is proven to be effective in treating,” said Scott. “This vote was a victory for them. I am proud and honored to have worked alongside thousands of Oklahomans who pushed for this change.”
Scott urged Gov. Mary Fallin and lawmakers to proceed with an orderly and fairly regulated marketplace.
The medical cannabis industry is ready to work together with lawmakers, regulatory agencies, and the medical community at-large to develop those rules and regulations in a timely manner,” he said.
Fallin disagreed with the election outcome but said she would proceed along with lawmakers on developing a regulatory process for medical marijuana.
“I respect the will of the voters in any question placed before them to determine the direction of our state. It is our responsibility as state leaders to look out for the health and safety of Oklahoma citizens. As I mentioned in previous public comments, I believe, as well as many Oklahomans, this new law is written so loosely that it opens the door for basically recreational marijuana. I will be discussing with legislative leaders and state agencies our options going forward on how best to proceed with adding a medical and proper regulatory framework to make sure marijuana use is truly for valid medical illnesses,” she said in a prepared statement.
Jed Green, political director for New Health Solutions Oklahoma, said the message was clear that Oklahomans want medical marijuana.
“The voice of the people has been deafening,” he said. “Our campaign has only begun. We look forward to working with our elected representatives and communicating the results of those efforts with the people of Oklahoma. Our hope is that leadership is displayed by the governor and members of the legislature in a timely implementation of the medical cannabis program.”
Canadian County Sheriff Chris West, an outspoken critic of SQ 788, posted on social media that he intends to work with SQ 788 supporters now that it has passed.
“Oklahoma will have medical marijuana implemented in a very short period of time,” West wrote. “I have, and always will advocate for helping sick and ailing people and hope this measure will provide the medical difference many believe that it will.”
West wrote that the time for debate is over and all people should move forward in a positive manner.
“SQ788 now moves to the State Department of Health for implementation. I believe the Governor may call for a special session of the legislature in order to draft safeguards and regulations, while keeping within the Spirit of SQ788. HB 3468 is a failed regulatory bill that was drafted with the cooperation of Pro-SQ788 advocates, and I believe it may be a good platform for them to work from. I have met with and had meaningful dialogue with pro-SQ788 advocates in the past, and expressed hopes that we can all work together with respect and civility toward a peaceful resolution.”
The Health Department issued a news release late Tuesday saying that employees have been working the past three months to develop emergency rules for medical marijuana and will be presenting those rules to the Oklahoma State Board of Health for approval at their July 10 meeting. The state health department will oversee the medical marijuana program.
The department said it expects to make information available to medical marijuana applicants by July 26 and to begin accepting applications by Aug. 25.
Only board-certified doctors of medicine or osteopathic physicians will be allowed to recommend medical marijuana to patients under the proposed regulations.
Medical marijuana patients would be prohibited from smoking or vaping medical marijuana in any place where smoking tobacco is illegal and be prohibited from doing so in the presence of anyone under 18.
Sellers of marijuana products would be prohibited from offering products that would appeal to children, including marijuana-laced gummy bears or worms, lollipops, “fake cigarettes” and animal-shaped candies.
Those proposed regulations are designed to address some of the second-hand smoke and gateway drug concerns raised by opponents to State Question 788.