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m a r i j ua n a

NEWS

Saving smoke

Two proposed state questions could offer the protection supporters of medical marijuana are looking for. By Joshua Blanco

Regulatory actions following the June 26 approval of State Question 788, the Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, appear to be shrouded in a cloud of special interests and bureaucratic deliberation. To ensure the will of the people is preserved, creators of a new initiative have since been actively petitioning to land State Questions 796 and 797 on the November ballot. “796 is meant to protect the patients and patient rights,” said Isaac Caviness, president of Green the Vote, a prominent Tulsa-based marijuana activist group. “We modeled it after 788.” A few modifications have been introduced to the measure, effectively distinguishing it from SQ788. These changes include but are not limited to requiring a second doctor to sign off on non-qualifying conditions, capping license fees to prevent overcharging patients and the requirement for a field sobriety test if an individual is suspected of impaired driving. “We may need it,” said Norma Sapp, executive director of National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws in Oklahoma (NORML). While she doesn’t like the idea of requiring two doctors’ signatures for a condition that isn’t considered to be qualified, she feels it’s a necessary step, provided SQ788 doesn’t go as planned. Attorney Chad Moody, a drug lawyer practicing in Oklahoma City, feels SQ796 demonstrates a taste of “crony capitalism” by showing preference for liquor industry access to competitive growing licenses regarding a substance he believes is better off without amassing regulations. “Oklahoma tends to pride itself on being a private, free-market, laissez-faire

capitalism kind of a place,” Moody said. “Why can’t you just have your cannabis?” SQ797, on the other hand, would allow citizens to use cannabis for recreational purposes. Colorado marijuana laws provided the framework for its authorship. Despite SQ796 being the activists’ primary concern, SQ797 has garnered more support since its announcement. “We did not realize we would get such an outpouring of support for recreational when we filed it,” Caviness said. “Instead of polling numbers, we needed to see hard numbers on where Oklahoma stood.” Based on the figures he witnessed, Caviness believes “Oklahoma is absolutely ready for recreational.” In contrast to SQ788, both SQ796 and SQ797 were filed as constitutional amendments, a strategic move that keeps lawmakers from tampering with the legislation originally approved by voters. “With 788, they can literally rewrite it from beginning to end and there’s nothing that we can do about that,” Caviness said.

Inhibiting regulation

The new amendments are intended to prevent unwarranted regulations that might otherwise be imposed on the measure, something activists have become all too familiar with since the passage of SQ788. “Our lawmakers could wash it down to nothing,” Caviness said in regard to 788. “And the health department already showed that.” The Oklahoma State Board of Health has since devised a new set of regulations on 788, making it increasingly more difficult for patients to access their medicine. Of the protocols, prohibiting the use of smokable marijuana appears to be the result of an ulterior motive at the expense of the patient. “Well it won’t work for a cancer patient that’s throwing up, will it?” Sapp asked rhetorically. “They have to have immediate relief. [Police] have a right to search and figure out what’s going on if they just say they smell it. And so they don’t want that to change.” Like Sapp, Moody spent time fighting for sensible marijuana legislation in the state’s political arena. According to him, the regulations are a final attempt to gratify what he calls “the law enforcement industrial establishment.” “There’s so much damn money going Petitions for State Questions 796 and 797 are due to the Secretary of State on Aug. 1 | Photo Isaac Caviness / provided

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