By: Lindsay Eichinger
On Tuesday, June 26, voters in Oklahoma voted to pass State Question 788 to make Oklahoma the 30th state in the nation to provide for medical marijuana access. The ballot measure passed with a healthy 57% to 43% margin.
The provision to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 420 of Title 63 is a wide-sweeping measure with broader accessibility to medical marijuana than in most other states (excluding those that have adult use). Other states, such as New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, certify medical use only for specific delineated “serious medical conditions.” Oklahoma’s SQ 788 declined to specify qualifying medical conditions but rather allows physicians to decide whether to recommend medical marijuana for any of their patients’ conditions. A patient who is certified by a physician to take medical marijuana may possess up to 3 ounces on their person and 8 ounces of medical marijuana in their residence.
Another difference in Oklahoma’s new medical marijuana program that differs from other states is the revenue to be generated from the sale of marijuana. For example, under the Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act, growers and processors are subject to a 5 percent gross receipts tax from the sale of medical marijuana to a dispensary. But Pennsylvania does not subject patients to any sales tax. In Oklahoma, however, retail purchasers by patients of medical marijuana will pay a 7% sales tax at the point of purchase. This revenue will be allocated to the General Revenue Fund and to the Oklahoma State Department of Health for drug and alcohol rehabilitation purposes.
SQ 788’s placement on the ballot was achieved through a successful grassroots effort that required the collection of 65,987 valid signatures within 90 days of the petition being cleared for circulation. Oklahomans for Health, a 501(c)(4) organization sponsored the petition and led the drive to acquire signatures.
Opponents of the initiative argue that the new marijuana law in Oklahoma is too broad and loosely written and essentially amounts to legalization of recreational marijuana rather than a legitimate medical marijuana program. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin released a statement after the passage of SQ 788:
“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.”
While opponents may feel the new Oklahoma medical marijuana law is too broad or goes too far, one thing is clear: Oklahomans, through consultation with their medical providers, will now have the choice to treat their medical conditions with medical marijuana. Another thing that Oklahoma voters have made clear is that access to medical marijuana is an ever-growing bipartisan issue that Americans support overwhelmingly. Nationally, polling shows 90% of American voters support medical cannabis and the passage of medical cannabis access in a conservative state like Oklahoma proves that support is becoming more deeply entrenched in mainstream America every day.
What’s next for Oklahoma medical marijuana? Lawmakers will now have to come together to implement the administration of Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program. House Majority Leader Jon Echols said that applications for growers and dispensaries could be out as soon as end of summer.
For more information, visit Oklahoma Department of Health at www.ok.gov/health