The ‘recreational’ objection to 788

On June 26th Oklahomans will have the opportunity to go to the polls to vote on State Question 788 which if passed will make medical cannabis legal in the state. All of the GOP candidates that have raised a significant amount of campaign funds have claimed to be in favor of medical marijuana but oppose SQ 788, arguing that the wording lacks sufficient restrictions to prevent recreational usage. In fact, 788 is not more loosely regulated than what has passed in other states, 788 is a statutory change and so can be modified by a simple majority of the Legislature at any future point, and the crocodile tears over recreational cannabis ignore the fact that it is widely available illegally now and that it is becoming more and more apparent to the public that cannabis prohibition is a harmful and failed policy.

It’s a virtual certainty that the Legislature will enact additional controls.

To discuss the process, Oklahoma allows several types of initiative petitions, each having it’s own signature requirement in order to qualify for the ballot. State Question 788 is an initiated state statute, which required the signatures of 65,987 voters. An initiative petition to amend the state constitution would have needed 123,725 signatures. The difference is that an amendment to the state constitution would be much more difficult to amend. Because 788 is statutory, if it passes then the Legislature can alter it in any way or even repeal it entirely by simple majority just as it can with any other state statute. Plans for a special session to add regulations are already being discussed. Voting against 788 because it is too broad ignores the fact that it’s a virtual certainty that the Legislature will enact additional controls.

SQ 788 is actually a modest proposal.

In comparison to other states, 788 is actually a modest proposal. As pointed out by Dr. Lawrence Pasternack of Oklahoma State, the limits of 8 ounces of product and six plants for those choosing to grow for their personal use are conservative compared to other states. All medicinal users would be required to have a doctor’s recommendation, which is also similar to what many other states have done. The alternative is to have politicians or bureaucrats decide what medical conditions can be treated with cannabis, individuals who have shown a willingness to obstruct cannabis usage altogether no matter who might be suffering.

Marijuana is readily available illegally to anyone in our state.

To quote the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, “Marijuana is one of the most abundant and accessible illicit drugs in our state.” 41% of all drug-related arrests in Oklahoma in 2016 were for possession of marijuana. No one can deny that marijuana is readily available illegally to anyone in our state who wants it. We are also in the midst of a prison overpopulation crisis. It is too expensive, not to mention draconian and immoral, to imprison individuals over a widely used intoxicant. This is not just the view of those who wish to use cannabis but also the position of innumerable others who understand that prohibition is bad policy, such as National Review founder William F. Buckley, Jr., former Congressman and Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ron Paul, Nobel economist Milton Friedman, and Detective Howard Wooldridge.

Please take a moment to watch the video about Austin Hilterbran. His parents uprooted their family and relocated to Colorado in order to have access to cannabis to treat Austin’s seizures. The Hilterbrans, with whom I went to school in Choctaw, would dearly love to come back to Oklahoma but cannot do so until Austin’s medicine is legal here. If you are in favor of medical marijuana but have concerns that SQ 788 might be too broad, you need to understand that if 788 fails we are unlikely to get another chance to pass medical cannabis legislation for many years. This is a measure that will allow tens of thousands of Oklahomans to treat real and serious medical conditions, avoid using highly addictive and potential lethal prescription opioids, and will eliminate risk of arrest and imprisonment for innumerable people who are trying to deal with health problems in a way that is currently illegal. Ignoring all of that because of the possibility that somebody somewhere might enjoy getting high, something they are already doing anyway, is a short-sighted choice that do nothing but work to keep Oklahoma in it’s place at the bottom of so many national rankings. Vote yes on SQ 788 on June 26th.