OKLAHOMA CITY — U.S. Sen. James Lankford joined a conservative religious organization Thursday in urging defeat of State Question 788.

Oklahoma Faith Leaders, which is headed by a former consultant to Lankford, said the medical marijuana referendum would be “harmful to the social fabric of Oklahoma.”

“This state question is being sold to Oklahomans as a compassionate medical marijuana bill by outside groups that actually want access to recreational marijuana,” Lankford said in a press release. “Most of us have seen first-hand the damage done to families and our communities from recreational marijuana use.”

The state question is the result of an initiative petition by Oklahomans for Health, a group formed in 2014. An initiative petition circulated by Oklahomans for Health that year failed to get sufficient signatures, and two proposed constitutional amendments seeking to change marijuana’s legal status in the state have been withdrawn in recent years.

Critics of SQ 788 have tended to characterize it as so broad that it would essentially legalize recreational marijuana.

Proponents say that because the language is statutory, it can be revised easily by the Legislature.

Lankford, in the press release, predicted that Oklahomans will be “more drug addicted and distracted” if SQ 788 passes.

“No one will convince me that our families will be better if only more parents and grandparents smoke more marijuana,” he said.

Advocates, though, say states that have adopted medical marijuana have seen a decrease in overuse of opiods and other prescription painkillers.

The director of Oklahoma Faith Leaders is Paul Abner, a Sapulpa native and evangelist who was a paid “faith-based consultant” to Lankford’s 2014 Senate campaign. According to Federal Election Commission records, Abner and his Student Development Institute have received at least $75,000 from Lankford since 2014. Abner is currently a Republican candidate for state House District 100 in far west Oklahoma City.

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Randy has been with the Tulsa World since 1979. He is a native of Hinton, Okla., and graduate of Oklahoma State University. Krehbiel primarily covers government and politics. Phone: 918-581-8365

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