Oklahoma Lawmakers already trying to sabotage Medical Marijuana Initiative
1:38 PM EST on January 25, 2018
Whenever I talk to medical (and recreational) marijuana advocates about SQ 788, their concern isn't that it won't pass. Based on polling and election results in other states, most of them figure it will be approved by a 3% – 10% margin. That's even with the Oklahoma establishment firmly against it.
The concern advocates have is what our square, behind-the-times, authoritarian Oklahoma lawmakers will do to sabotage SQ 788 once it passes. Kind of like what Ralph Shortey and his buddies in the legislature attempted to do with SQ 780 and 781, there's a fear they'll gut the law and change its intended purpose. Thanks to a couple of bills recently introduced in the Oklahoma House and Senate, those fears seem very justified.
For example, SQ 788 puts the onus of licensing and regulating the medical marijuana trade under the Oklahoma State Department of Health. Yes, the Oklahoma Health Department is currently a shit show and perfect example of just how dysfunctional an agency can be when you elect conservative, anti-government ideologues to run things, but it's the logical choice. Although the word "medical" in SQ 788 is used very loosely, the health department should be in charge of licensing and regulating the dispensaries and grow operations that will supply to the public a legal, medicinal product.
State Rep Claudia Griffith – a Democrat – thinks differently. She's introduced HB 3214. If it becomes law, it would transfer oversight of medical marijuana to the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics – the notoriously anti-marijuana state law enforcement agency that would prefer the devil's lettuce remain illegal forever.
Here's the text to her bill:
Contingent upon passage and approval of State Question No. 788, the Director shall be authorized to promulgate rules and regulations governing the oversight of licensed medical marijuana dispensaries located within this state. The rules and regulations shall include, but not be limited to, requirements for record keeping, inventory control, sales, personnel and security at licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. The Director is further authorized to inspect any licensed medical marijuana dispensary to determine if the dispensary is in compliance with rules and regulations promulgated by the Director and applicable state laws that govern the dispensing of medical marijuana to medical marijuana license holders.
Wow. What type of dank reggie is Griffith smoking!? The OBN absolutely hates marijuana! They think it should be remain illegal in every way, shape or form. The agency spokesperson, Mark Woodward, regularly appears on TV and radio espousing Reefer Madness soundbites like "I’ve seen [marijuana] wreck more lives than any other drug." They even pedal and promote misinformation about the herb on social media:
Why would anyone, much less a Democratic State Representative, want to put people with draconian views in charge of regulating medical marijuana? They'll go out of their way to be difficult to work with, and will try hard to make medical marijuana access as restrictive as possible. It would be as stupid as putting a guy like Scott Pruitt, a man who hates the environment, in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency!
But that's just one bill.
SQ 788 has a very liberal and open view of medical marijuana. Although you have to get a doctors' permission to use medical marijuana, which is dumb and bureaucratic, the initiative allows any legal-aged adult to use marijuana for any medical condition. Basically, it legalizes weed in Oklahoma under the wink-wink cloak of medical marijuana.
Although that's kind of silly, I'm fine with it. If you have ever tried marijuana, you probably know there's not a big difference between recreational use and medical use. They are virtually interchangeable. Sure, some people strictly use MMJ to treat legit health issues like seizures, PTSD and pain, but most recreational users enjoy the herb for its stress relieving, feel-good, chilling effect, or its ability to make the mundane seem enjoyable, euphoric and enlightening. You can make a serious argument that those benefits are health / medicinal related, too, so who really cares if it's called medical marijuana or not? If people think it helps them feel better, let them use it.
Dr. Ervin Yen – the GOP State Senator who practices anesthesiology and, by the way, is married to a woman who could probably use some marijuana – thinks differently. Dr. Yen recently introduced SB 1120. It aims to totally gut and rewrite the language in SQ 788 by making medical marijuana more limited and strictly defining its "medical uses."
For example, his bill will limit medical marijuana use to people who are either "terminally ill" or have "serious conditions." Here's the list of "serious" conditions:
Yep, that's it. Want to use marijuana to help you sleep at night? Sorry. That's not a "serious" enough condition. You need to take a pharmaceutical sleep aid prescribed by a doctor who just had lunch with a pretty pharmaceutical rep. Want to take a hit of a vape pen to help with that stress headache? Sorry. That's not a "serious" enough condition. You should just take a couple of Tylenol – an over the counter pill that can cause stomach bleeding and kills over 150 Americans a year. That will do the the trick.
Yen's legislation also introduced a litany of over-the-top, bureaucratic rules and regulations designed to make accessing and selling medical marijuana as difficult as possible. For example, check out the labeling requirements:
That seems kind of excessive, right? Marijuana isn't a harmful, dangerous drug with numerous side effects like the ones physicians like Dr. Yen prescribes to patie... wait. I forgot Dr. Yen is an anesthesiologist. They're basically the pit crew of the physician world.
Dr. Yen even wants to limit free speech and capitalism by placing restrictions on advertising:
Crap. It looks like I'm going to have to reevaluate the Happy Ogle's business model. I guess I better start running ads before Yen's law goes into effect.
You can read Yen's proposal in its full draconian entirety here. Reading between the lines, it's easy to see what he's doing. He's a stodgy, moralist doctor. He's playing the card that if you're going to label marijuana as a medical product, than we're going to overreact, treat it like a deadly and dangerous substance, and hold it to the same strict regulatory standards as other pharmaceutical products.
That's bullshit and a stupid idea. Instead of going that dick move route, Yen should just introduce a bill that takes the mask off "medical" marijuana and gets the healthcare community out of the equation. It is absurd that doctors have to "prescribe" it. Instead, marijuana should simply be taxed and regulated like alcohol and cigarettes, and made available to any legal-aged adult who wants it. Yes, I know that's not the moralist, authoritarian, high-road that panders to Yen's base, but it's something to consider.
Anyway, I'd encourage you to call both Griffith and Yen to tell them your thoughts on their legislation. I'd also suggest you to call your state rep or lawmaker and ask them to take a public stand against these anti-marijuana measures. Remember, the establishment is doing all this six months before people have even voted on SQ 788. Imagine what our lawmakers are going to try once it passes?