Amid efforts to establish a new medical marijuana industry in Oklahoma, activists want to enshrine the right to use marijuana — both for medical purposes and recreationally — in the state constitution.
Green the Vote, headed by Tulsan Isaac Caviness, is promoting two state questions — 796 and 797 — of which it filed notice on April 3 with the Oklahoma secretary of state.
The first, State Question 796, would amend the Oklahoma Constitution to classify marijuana as an “herbal drug” regulated by the proposed Oklahoma Cannabis Commission. It would, if approved by voters, allow for use by patients meeting qualifying conditions such as cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, migraines, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Those who have conditions not on the list will need recommendations from two doctors rather than one, according to the petition’s text.
The second initiative, State Question 797, states adults 21 years or older can consume or possess up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use, with the first $40 million in proceeds from sales earmarked for the public school capital construction assistance fund.
Both measures would allow patients or users to exchange or transfer up to an ounce either to another medically licensed patient or, in the case of recreational marijuana, another adult at least 21 years of age.
“We look at 796 and 797 as an insurance policy to make sure (State Question) 788 does not get over-regulated,” Caviness said in an interview on Tuesday, referencing voters’ passage of medical marijuana on June 26 through a referendum.
He said he is concerned about legislators making changes to the spirit of State Question 788 without what he views as full accountability and therefore decided the state should take the matter a step further in the direction of legalization.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health is overseeing the implementation of 788 and has created the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority to handle the matter. OSDH officials will meet July 10 to discuss the approval of emergency rules regarding, among other issues, licensing for patients, growers, processors, transporters and dispensaries.
Because each new petition relates to a proposed constitutional amendment, each requires the collection of around 124,000 signatures by Aug. 8 in order to appear on the November ballot. State Question 788, which outlined the legalization of medical marijuana based on a doctor’s approval without a preset list of conditions, made it on the June 26 ballot after garnering more than 63,000 signatures.
SQ 796 as of Tuesday had just under 60,000 signatures collected and SQ 797 had roughly 65,000, Caviness said.
“These are better numbers than we’ve ever had at this point in a petition drive,” Caviness said. “We feel like we’re right on track to be well over the 124,000 signatures we need by August. We’re several thousand signatures ahead on the adult use (petition) over the medical one, and probably a lot of what’s driving it is people are being educated about the amount of tax revenue that comes with having recreational (marijuana.)”
He said he has seen a significant shift in public attitudes about the legalization of marijuana just within the past five years, noting he struggled in 2014 and 2015 to have businesses carry petitions in their stores.
“Now that we’re in 2018, we have people that line up everywhere we go,” Caviness said. “Nobody in Oklahoma right now is happy that their tax dollars are being spent to incarcerate people and their tax dollars aren’t being spent on education.”