SQ788: Encouraging Oklahomans to Stay Informed
Written by Siege Powell
It’s no secret that there is a very important election coming up this June in Oklahoma; in fact as I type this there are only nineteen days left until we all head to the polls to decide whether or not medicinal marijuana is right for our state. While an overwhelming majority of people polled have said they’re voting yes this summer, an alarming pattern has popped up in the news and on social media in the weeks approaching this decision.
For a majority of the time that this election has been scheduled, opponents have been suspiciously silent (considering what a bleeding red state Oklahoma has always been known to be), but as we approach the election date opposing organizations are gearing up and seeping their way into the media to make one last attempt to stop people from voting yes. As a result, this writer feels it’s only right to encourage her fellow Oklahomans to educate themselves on both sides of this debate and make the decision they feel is best for our state community.
In case you didn’t know, it took several attempts, a lot of pushback from stubborn legislators, and tons of hard work from volunteers who went out in all conditions to get signatures for the petition to have this matter put on the state ballot. For the better part of the last decade thousands of Oklahomans have worked tirelessly to try to bring this medicinal option to the state for those who desperately need it but don’t want to have to move away from family in order to get the help they need. After all of that work, now it’s finally time to vote, and you should know exactly what you’re voting for; so here’s the rundown (in layman’s terms) of some of what is included in SQ788:
Section 1 (Section 420 of title 63): (ha…420…)
A. A person in possession of a state issued medical marijuana license shall be able to:
Consume marijuana legally;
Legally possess up to three (3) ounces on their person;
Legally possess six (6) mature marijuana plants;
Legally possess six (6) seedling plants;
Legally possess one (1) ounce of concentrated marijuana;
Legally possess seventy-two (72) ounces of edible marijuana;
Legally possess up to eight (8) ounces of marijuana at their residence.
Possession of up to one and a half (1.5) ounces of marijuana by someone who can claim a medical condition but is not in possession of a state issued medical marijuana license, shall constitute a misdemeanor offense with a fine not to exceed $400.00.
A regulatory office shall be established under the Oklahoma State Department of Health which will receive applications for medical licenses, dispensaries, growers, and packagers within sixty (60) days of initiative approval.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health shall, within thirty (30) days of this initiative, make available, on their website, in an easy to find location, an application for a medical marijuana license. The license will be good for two (2) years and the application fee will be one hundred ($100) dollars, or twenty ($20) dollars for individuals on Medicare, Medicaid, or Soonercare. The methods of payment shall be provided on the website as well.
Temp License for holders of licenses in other states (see yeson788.com for further information)
Must be an Oklahoma resident.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health must approve or deny applications within 14 days of submission.
I could keep going, but there’s a lot of information in this section and I’m sure you’re already getting bored, but letters H-N under section A. go over things like records, authenticity, caregiver licenses (for patients under the age of 18), age requirements, city and county regulations, etc.
It also explains in this section that all applications must be signed by an Oklahoma board certified physician and that there are no qualifying conditions for a person to obtain a state issued medical marijuana license. This is a sore spot and point of contingency with the opposition; however, physicians are encouraged to prescribe a license for ailments in which any reasonable and prudent physician would see fit. The bill also states that physicians are not to be harassed or stigmatized for prescribing licenses to patients. Sections 421-426 of title 63 cover everything from dispensaries, growing, production, transportation, discrimination protection, as well as taxation and enactment. The final part of the initiative states that it will go into effect within 30 days following its passage. If you’d like more information or to read the full proposal go to yeson788.com as they’re the website I found that has the most information, as well as concise answers to frequently asked questions, and cited sources and statistics in response to claims made by the opposition. (for further information on SQ788 or to read remaining sections visit yeson788.com)
For those wondering, the main reason people worked so hard to get this on the ballot, is because it’s well known that medicinal marijuana would help Oklahomans suffering from a number of ailments if it were legalized, from things like epilepsy, Parkinson’s, fibromyalgia, addiction, and pain management for those who suffer from chronic pain/illness, to psychological ailments such as PTSD, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression. Furthermore, it can be said that the more states legalize and loosen laws and restrictions on the study of treatments derived from cannabis, the more biologists, physicians, and other scientists are finding new and interesting ways to use this plant to treat things that have never before been treated using this method. So why then, would anyone oppose something that could help so many people in a state that claims to be founded on good moral fiber? Let’s discuss.
Why Would Anyone Oppose?
Faced with something that may very likely pass with an overwhelming majority, those opposed to SQ788 are pulling out all the stops as the election date approaches by forming organizations to try to sway the minds of the common voter in Oklahoma and they’re using things like fear mongering, party loyalty, and religious affiliations to pull at the moral heartstrings of their constituents.
If you visit one of the main websites run by the opposition (www.sq788isnotmedical.com) you’ll find just what was described, a website plastered in the color red, ridiculous choices in font style and size, a video of Senator James Lankford speaking out against SQ788, and just below Senator Skeletor you’ll find three lists of claims that are neither backed by citation, rooted in fact, or proven by any scientific study.
The whole website looks like it was made by an angry church mom, to be honest, and while neutrality in journalism is important, it’s important to call out those who are clearly denouncing something for selfish reasons. This website claims that SQ788 is not medical and that it is strategically set up to become a recreational marijuana bill, to which one could offer the rebuttal that those who wish to use marijuana recreationally are already doing so, despite whatever laws may be in place, it will not stop those who wish to use recreationally. In that same regard, one could hypothesize and also find statistics to support (www.yesonsq788.com) the fact that when a bill is enacted regarding recreational marijuana you take all of the money that previously would have ended up in the pockets of dangerous drug cartels known to operate out of OKC and are putting it instead into the pocket of the state, which let’s face it, desperately needs funding in a multitude of areas. The website also makes several other claims like:
According to Federal Election Commission Records, Abner and his “Student Development Institute” have received at least $75,000 from Lankford since 2014 (Tulsaworld.com). So what does this mean? Well, for obvious reasons pharmaceutical companies would want to keep marijuana out of a state addicted to opiates, meth, barbiturates, and alcohol; because affordable holistic natural remedies would cost them millions in what people pay to be pumped full of chemicals annually. That’s not to mention the State Sheriff’s office supporting opposition due to the amount of money drug fines probably bring in yearly for many state and local law enforcement agencies, however there are likely far less scuzzy ways to get funding…but that’s not even the biggest part of the motivation for opposition; there are also, the prisons.
Since the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ began in 1971 (thanks Nixon, you crooked bastard), the United States incarceration rate has gone up 70%; private prisons alone rake in a whopping $7.4 billion a year nationally (https://smartassets.com/mortgage-the-economics-of-the-american-prison-system). On June 6th, 2018 Oklahoma was declared the prison capitol of the US in a report from www.prisonpolicy.org, it was shown in this report that for every 100,000 Oklahoma citizens, 1,079 are incarcerated. With the average cost of each individual prisoner being between $10,000-$20,000, and a state population of 3,940,521 it’s easy to see why private prisons don’t want to lose this cash cow of a reason to incarcerate ‘criminals’ who are otherwise non-violent offenders and probably don’t actually belong locked up alongside murderers, rapists, and child molesters.
However, if SQ788 passes, 50% of the prison population in for these non-violent offenses could be pardoned, which would effectively end prison overcrowding overnight and likely save us the $800 million the Department of Corrections is currently requesting to build a new prison in Oklahoma (OKsenate.gov). Police, also, would benefit in saving money for their departments and time for themselves because they’d be dealing less with arresting, booking, reporting, and testifying on behalf of small time marijuana charges. They might actually get to spend time like…I don’t know…helping people, stopping actual violent crimes, you know…real big city cop stuff (yeson788.com). Oh, and for the record, that $10,000-$20,000 per prisoner that Oklahoma averages? That comes out of tax-payer pockets, and you know where it goes? Most of it not back into the state, but instead into the pockets of the private prison owners, lobbyists, and politicians. Let’s take that money and put it back into our struggling state, a state that desperately needs to have less criminals and more people who are healthy, happy, and receiving the kind of help they need.
So to conclude, fellow Oklahomans, you don’t have to make a decision based on this article alone, in fact please don’t decide (if you were previously undecided) based on only one article
or piece of information, but if you still aren’t sure which way you lean, do some research and find where you truly stand on this matter. June 26th will be here in just two short weeks and we owe it to those who worked to hard to get this issue on the ballot to make a well informed and fact-based decision regarding the future of our state’s health and economy.
If you didn’t know, last week was the last week to register to vote in time for the June 26th primary; however, if you are registered but you just didn’t get a chance to re-register, figure out where you’re supposed to go to vote, or to which district you belong, please visit: This website (Voter Info drop down menu>Voter Online Tool>Find Your Polling Place) or call (405) 521-2391 before the election date gets too much closer. This author personally believes that this measure could help the state of Oklahoma tremendously, and that it’s up to us as citizens to make the right decision and stop voting based on bipartisan grudges, religious affiliation, and tradition.
Please research SQ788, study all those running for office this coming fall, look up any other proposals you may be voting on as well, because this is our state and we are the ones ultimately responsible for the quality of life here, not just for ourselves, but for everyone who calls Oklahoma home.
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