SQ 788 Opponents Organize

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

by Cahterine Sweeney

http://journalrecord.com/2018/05/16/sq-788-opponents-organize/

An official opposition group to Oklahoma’s medical marijuana vote has hit the scene.

Residents will be voting on State Question 788 on June 26. That would allow the cultivation, sale and use of marijuana for any medical reason that a physician approves.

The group supporting the measure has been around for several years. It gathered enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot during summer 2016, and it settled the legal disputes over the text within the policy last March.

A group of medical professionals, law enforcement associations and organizations within the faith community joined together to establish SQ 788 is NOT Medical.

Several members within the opposition group said the intent is not to block medical marijuana access in Oklahoma, but this provision specifically. They raised several concerns with the proposed policy, but they all centered on one idea: This iteration of marijuana legislation does not place enough restrictions on possession and use, essentially rendering it a recreational marijuana law.

Several members within the opposition group said the intent is not to block medical marijuana access in Oklahoma, but this provision specifically. They raised several concerns with the proposed policy, but they all centered on one idea: This iteration of marijuana legislation does not place enough restrictions on possession and use, essentially rendering it a recreational marijuana law.

Ray McNair is the executive director of the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association. He said that residents expect his organization to oppose any kind of marijuana legalization, but that the association actually supports medical marijuana.

We definitely see and understand there are benefits to certain people,” he said.

He raised several concerns about the mechanisms that would be implemented under the statutes the ballot measure would enact. He said the Oklahoma State Department of Health – the embattled agency that has seen about 200 layoffs and requested a $30 million bailout amid a financial mismanagement scandal – does not have the resources needed to verify licensing eligibility for all residents involved in the industry or inspect grow sites and dispensaries. He said other agencies, such as the Bureau of Narcotics or the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission, would likely be better suited, but lawmakers would have to go in and change portions of the bill.

He also raised a concern about the amount of marijuana residents would be allowed to possess: 3 ounces on their person and 8 ounces in the residence. That excludes edible marijuana, on which residents would have a 72-ounce limit, and concentrated marijuana products, which would face a 1-ounce limit. He said the measure would prohibit officers from arresting people for intent to distribute, even if they possess significantly more than they can use because of the limit.

“It comes out to about 85 joints,” he said. “This is not medical marijuana; this state question is recreational.”

Brett Farley is the executive director of the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma. He echoed the concerns about possession weight allowances.

“If this were passed, the ease of access to marijuana would not be a whole lot different than what we’re seeing in states that have fully legalized,” he said. “Worse, they can get a permit to grow at home and virtually have an unlimited amount.”

He also reiterated that his organization is not opposing medical marijuana overall, but that the state doesn’t have the resources to regulate the burgeoning industry.

“The Catholic Church essentially invented idea of the hospital,” he said. “We are certainly sympathetic … about medical needs. It’s really dangerous to rush into any new policy regime. You want to take things slowly.”

Wes Glinsmann is the executive director of the Oklahoma State Medical Association. He said there are medical needs, but the policy doesn’t specify what they are, so it essentially would allow the substance to be prescribed for anything.

“Other states that have passed medical marijuana, they list out certain conditions,” he said. “It goes back to how broadly this thing is written.”

It also allows any board-certified physician to prescribe. Under Oklahoma law, he said, that would include not only medical doctors but also chiropractors, dentists and podiatrists.

Pat McFerron, a founding partner at CMA Strategies, is working as the consultant on the issue. He said that although opposition campaigns can be tough, this coalition shows that SQ 788 could be different.

“It is difficult to raise money for a ‘no’ campaign,” he said. “Voting ‘no’ is the status quo. There are a lot of people in this community (organization) who want to do the right thing. I have every confidence we’ll be able to raise money and educate voters.”

Although lawmakers can make changes to the statute if the question passes, the opposition team is pushing for the ballot measure to fail. McNair said that is the only way to ensure the necessary restrictions are put in place.

“The legislators are hesitant about making any changes to that when it becomes statute,” he said. “We come to, ‘This was selected by the people.’”

The Legislature considered two bills during this legislative session that would have pre-emptively made some changes to the statute – one coming from each chamber. Both failed.

Read the original article on JournalRecord.com

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Find out more about the SQ788 is NOT Medical coalition at www.sq788isnotmedical.com.