In this episode of Capitol Insider, StateImpact health reporter Jackie Fortier joins KGOU’s Dick Pryor and eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley to discuss State Question 788, which would legalize medical marijuana if it passes on June 26.
The three go over the groups campaigning for and against this measure, and whether regulators are prepared for voters to legalize medical marijuana, as recent polling suggests they will.
Dick Pryor: We're joined by State Impact Oklahoma reporter Jackie fortier, whose reporting focuses on health issues. Welcome, Jackie.
Jackie Fortier: Thank you.
Pryor: We want to talk to you about a state question that will be on the June 26 statewide ballot, State Question 788. What would 788 do?
Fortier: 788 would legalize not only the sale but the cultivation of medical marijuana in Oklahoma also legalize the use and possession but it would have to be for medical purposes.
Shawn Ashley: What are some of those medical purposes?
Fortier: Well that's interesting. 788 doesn't have any qualifying conditions unlike a lot of other laws in other states that have legalized medical marijuana. So there isn't a list of conditions that people would have to have when they go to their doctor, for example, like PTSD or chronic pain. In other states you would have to go to your doctor and you and your doctor restock about it and you would have to have one of maybe 10. It depends on the state qualifying conditions and then they would decide whether or not to lend their signature to an application for a medical marijuana license. If state question 788 passes in Oklahoma we'd be one of very few states that does not require any sort of qualifying condition.
Ashley: It seems one of the things that's different about Oklahoma's proposal is that it sets the minimum age at 18 as opposed to 21. Is that the case?
Fortier: That is true. Some other states have a minimum age of 21. 18 is not unheard of, though, for medical marijuana, specifically recreational tends to be 21. Proponents say that that opens it up for people who might need it. State Question 788 would allow for minors to have access to medical marijuana, but they put a lot of restrictions on it. You would need a guardian and then you would need two doctors signatures saying that the child does need it for medical purposes before they could apply for a license with the state.
Fortier: What groups or organizations are on the two sides of this issue? Oklahomans for Health led the signature petition drive to put the initiative on the ballot, and they obviously support it. There's also Vote Yes on 788. There's quite a few people lining up in opposition. Shawn, help me out here.
Ashley: There was a coalition that was announced a couple of weeks ago. The coalition is made up of a number of different business organizations. This proposal's very specific in saying that an individual would not be permitted to utilize medical marijuana on the job. I can take an opiate in my workplace. I can sneak a drink in the workplace. It's not prohibited by law. So there is a unique provision in this proposal isn't it?
Ashley: It is. A lot of the opposition is afraid that they won't be able to fire an employee who is high on the job, for example. Oklahoma's an at will work states that really wouldn't actually be an issue. But that is something that people keep bringing up.
Pryor: There are concerns that this is just really legalizing marijuana, and people who see it that way point to how broadly this particular law, 788, is written.
Fortier: Yeah that's correct. A lot of people are worried about it being too broad and they say that it's basically just recreational marijuana. I think that a lot of the language that you see in the ballot measure is in response to other states experiences and lessons learned, frankly.
Fortier: Recent polling suggests 788 will likely pass. Are preparations already underway to implement this particular state question and, more specifically, for people to begin the business of medicinal marijuana?
Ashley: During the regular session there was a working group that looked at some of these ideas. The state question is designed to take effect approximately 30 days after it passes. That working group continues to work I'm told. So they very well may be developing statutory language that could be implemented quickly.
Fortier: People tend to focus on the personal use if state question 788 passes. But this would legalize an entire industry where marijuana. Would be able to be grown, how it would be moved, what pesticides can be used on these plants... All of that has to be regulated.
Pryor: Jackie Fortier, from State Impact Oklahoma, thanks for joining us.
Fortier: Thank you.