Gov. Mary Fallin should stop delaying consideration of medical marijuana and schedule the vote on State Question 788 as soon as possible.
In the past 60 days, I’ve gone to the state Capitol five times, making that point to more than 40 elected officials, including the governor.
The people of Oklahoma have done their part. They followed the procedure of petitioning, gathered the tens of thousands of signatures, fought to have the ballot title approved and finally secured that medical marijuana will be on the ballot sometime in 2018.
However, Gov. Fallin has yet to do her legal duty and set a date with the election board. It’s a simple task; why is it being delayed? The people of Oklahoma have spoken: We want medical marijuana, and we need it now more than ever.
With the current state of affairs and budget crisis in Oklahoma, the issue is even more pertinent. The latest Quality Counts grade for Education in Oklahoma is a “D,” ranking our state 47th in the country. SQ 788 will directly benefit our education system. The proposed law designates that any surplus of the taxes collected shall be apportioned with 75 percent going to the general revenue fund and may only be expended for common education. In our neighboring state of Colorado, their once-crumbling, outdated schools have had a massive boost and incredible renovation thanks in part to the influx of recent tax revenue pouring out of that state’s marijuana legislation.
To compound our state’s current financial woes, we also have an incredible problem with meth and opioid addiction. Oklahoma ranks second in the nation for substance abuse, according to OK.gov. SQ 788 also addresses this issue, because the other 25 percent of surplus taxes is apportioned to the Oklahoma Department of Health, earmarked for drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
It is also worth mentioning that new research shows medical marijuana as a treatment for addiction or a safer replacement of opioid painkillers. The American Journal of Public Health published research earlier this year showing that Colorado’s marijuana legislation coincided with a 6.5 percent reduction in opioid overdose deaths. The National Institute of Drug Abuse is funding projects investigating medical marijuana and its components for treatment of substance use disorder, methamphetamine use disorder and relapse prevention. The institute is also looking at the potential therapy for alcohol use disorder and opioid withdrawal.
In other states with medical marijuana, we have already seen the profound effects of cannabis in children with seizures, helping patients who are fighting cancer, those with chronic pain and other debilitating diseases. Let us not stand in the way of a doctor’s right to prescribe a safe, effective medicine to patients as the doctor deems fit. No one else needs to suffer because of an outdated law.
Please, let’s not be last anymore, Oklahoma!
I know that my state is filled with some of the best people in the nation. If anything ties us together, it’s that we care. We care about our sick. We care about our elderly and those who are suffering. We care about teachers, and we all want to see our schools flourish.
But despite having great everyday Oklahomans, our neighboring states are about to pull ahead again with Arkansas and Texas enacting medical marijuana legislation ahead of us. More than half of the states have legalized medical marijuana, hemp, or recreational use. Our government denies suffering Oklahomans legal access to medicine that is safer than prescription drugs. Furthermore, it is robbing our state of the opportunity to address Oklahoma’s financial crisis.
Gov. Fallin, let’s not put Oklahoma and its people last. We expect you to follow the will of the people and set the date for medical marijuana to be on the Oklahoma ballot as soon as possible in June 2018.
Shawn Jenkins is an Oklahoma native and the father of four beautiful children, one of which suffers from intractable epilepsy. He is a U.S. Army Veteran (101st Airborne Div.), graduated with B.S. and M.S. degrees from OSU, and is a former Oklahoma teacher.