Oklahoma voters showed support for medical cannabis despite a late opposition campaign launched by business, faith, law enforcement, and political leaders. Voters approved the ballot measure that makes Oklahoma the 30th state in the United States to allow broad access to medical cannabis.
This is also the first cannabis question on a state ballot in 2018.
The initiative, called State Question 788, is the result of an activist-led signature drive that started over two years ago. It makes it legal for Oklahoma residents to grow, use, and sell cannabis for medical purposes.
The measure, according to Forbes, was approved by voters by a 10-point margin, with over 85% of precincts reporting.
The proposed legislation does not outline any qualifying conditions. It means that physicians will be allowed to authorize the use of the drug for a wide range of medical conditions.
Pursuant to the proposed legislation, a two-year medical cannabis license would allow a resident to possess up to 8 ounces of the drug, six mature cannabis plants and six seedlings, edibles, and concentrated forms of cannabis.
The campaign to legalize medical cannabis in Oklahoma succeeded despite very little national funding for the effort and the significant backlash from various groups over the perceived vagueness of the law.
Gov. Mary Fallin expressed fear that the proposed law would essentially legalize recreational cannabis. However, she had said earlier that if the proposal passed, she would likely call on legislators to return for a special session in order to establish a regulatory framework.
The group SQ 788 in Not Medical, which launched a late $500,000 media blitz painting the proposal as a plan to make adult-use cannabis legal under the guise of medical cannabis.
According to Dr. Kevin Taubman, the chairman of the opposition group and former president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, State Question 788 is a bad public health policy that in no way resembles a legitimate medical treatment program.
Despite this, pollsters in the state expected the measure to pass easily due to widespread support for medicinal marijuana even among Republican voters.
“Even in a predominantly ‘red’ state like Oklahoma, it is the will of the voters to enact common sense, yet significant marijuana law reforms.” — NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano
Attitudes have shifted
Oklahoma has a reputation for being a very conservative state. However, in recent decades, attitudes have shifted when it comes to cannabis, especially among the young people.
Oklahoma’s tough-on-crime stance has also come at a cost, as the state’s fast-rising prison population consumes a bulk of the state’s already limited funding. As a result, in 2016, voters approved a question to make the the possession of any drug a misdemeanor. This despite prosecutors and law enforcement opposing the effort.
So, amidst opposition, pollsters expected the ballot measure to pass due to the widespread support for medical cannabis, even among the Republican voters.
Pollster Bill Shapard, who has surveyed Oklahomans on the issue of medical cannabis legalization for more than five years, told the AP that he’s found that almost half of all Republicans support the new law, so that is going to take a lot of money and a lot of organized opposition for the law to lose on election day.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) had praised the vote, stating that the issue of legalizing cannabis for medical purposes was growing in popularity even in predominantly red states such as Oklahoma.
Public support for medical cannabis access is non-partisan, NORML deputy director Paul Armentano noted. Even in deep-red states like Oklahoma, it is the voters’ will to enact common-sense, yet relevant cannabis law reforms, he added.