Maybe it’s time to go the State Question route on medical marijuana…
11:47 AM EST on February 11, 2014
Tomorrow is Medical Marijuana Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol. According to NORML, the day will consist of lobbying, advocacy and raiding the Capitol snack machines for goodies and treats.
Although this seems like a good idea, "Medical Marijuana Day" is a bigger waste of time than syncing the Wizard of Oz to The Dark Side of the Moon. According to Senator Don Barrington, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Public Safety, any legislation aimed to legalize marijuana is dead on the arrival.
Via KSWO in Lawton:
Marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington, could Oklahoma be next?
Not anytime soon, says one local state senator, and he doesn't plan on hearing a new bill proposing the legalization of marijuana in his senate subcommittee. Senate Bill 2116 would tax and regulate marijuana in Oklahoma and let people have small amounts, up to an ounce, for personal use.
Senator Don Barrington, Lawton Republican, says a similar bill was introduced in last year's legislative session and voted down, and that's why he says he won't hear the bill in his Senate Subcommittee on Public Safety. Barrington believes this is just another way to get marijuana legalized by changing the language of the previous bill.
"When legislation is passed, there are unintended consequences and I think the legislation I reviewed would lead to unintended consequences. I don't think parameters are put in place that can handle it," said Senator Barrington.
Barrington says a bill very similar to this one was heard by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee last session and voted down.
"It depends on who you talk to. Some say it's a gateway drug, and leads to a more serious use of drugs. Others say it isn't," said Barrington.
It's cute that stoners are doing this and everything, but marijuana is never going to become legal in this state via the legislative process. For a bill to pass the Oklahoma legislature, it generally needs to help the rich, hurt the poor, restrict abortions, promote guns, discriminate against gays, reject science, push Christianity, or simply solve a problem that doesn't exist.
If you didn't notice, legalizing a drug that's been demonized by social conservative groups for the last 70 years is not on that list. Although 71% of Oklahoma voters feel medical marijuana should be legalized and over half think decriminalization is the answer, there's no way a legislator not named Connie Johnson would vote for any of that in this state. It's just not going to happen. They're too afraid of a backlash.
That's why instead of wasting their time bothering lawmakers, the legalization folks at NORML need to put all their time and effort behind getting a couple of state questions on the ballot. It's the only chance they have. If they are smart, they'd base everything on the Colorado laws. One SQ would decriminalize, tax and regulate marijuana for recreational purposes, while the other would legalize it for simple medical use.
You need two different laws because:
A) The people who use the herb for legitimate medical reasons should not have to pay a high tax rate.
B) There's a good chance the state question that decriminalizes the drug would fail.
To get those questions on the ballot, the NORML folks need to compile about 160,000 signatures in a three-month time span. That seems like a lot, but if they organize and time the petition drive correctly, it's attainable. To reach a mass audience, I'd suggest they do it in the fall. They could rent a couple of booths at the Oklahoma State Fair, which is one of the largest annual pothead gatherings in the country, and collect signatures on college campuses during football game days. They could even show up at gun shows, monster truck rallies or any other stereotypical place you'd find libertarians and tea partiers. They're for legalization, too.
Of course, the problem with all this is that it would require a bunch of stoners to get off the couch and actually do something productive. Since that's likely not going to happen, state Democrats should help them lead the charge. What exactly do they have to lose? It can't get any worse for the Dems in this state, so they might as well pick a fight they can actually win. It's better than constantly getting their ass kicked by Republicans every day.
If the State Questions do make the ballot, there are still a couple of hurdles. For one, the church lobby will campaign hard against legalization because they know what's best for you. Two, old people will vote "No" because they also know what's best for you. Unfortunately, those people actually get out and vote. Also, there's always the Scott Pruitt factor. He'd try to sabotage the state questions like he did the storm shelters in schools thing. He'd probably rewrite them to read like a conservative Reefer Madness and claim it will increase Sharia Law or something.
That aside, the Democrats, Libertarians and NORML folks should seriously meet up and come up with an actual plan or something to get this done. I'll even broker the first meeting. We'll hang out, listen to some records, and, well, never mind. I'll provide more details later.