In the past year, two states – Colorado and Washington – have legalized the use of marijuana, and some Oklahomans are hoping the Sooner State will follow suit.
Two petitions are circulating that address the legalization of marijuana in Oklahoma. The petition for State Question 773 began this week and deals with legalization of marijuana for recreational, industrial, and medical use. The petition for State Question 768, or the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Amendment, was filed in April by a representative of Oklahomans for Health.
To help educate people and to gather more awareness and signatures, Oklahomans for Health has a mobile team traveling around the state. They will be outside the Tahlequah Public Library on Friday, July 18.
If these petitions gain the required number of signatures within the allotted time, they may appear on the Nov. 4 ballot as an initiated constitutional amendment. Oklahoma is one of 18 states that allows petition initiatives.
The secretary of state’s website states the amendment “allows for the classification of marijuana as a herbal drug regulated by the Oklahoma State Department of Health and permits the use of marijuana, under a physician’s guidance, for certain medical conditions including cancer, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, MS, and other conditions.”
According to Frank Grove, SQ 768 grew out of a grassroots movement and a collaboration between Oklahomans for Health, Policy Reform Network of Oklahoma, and the Oklahoma chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Grove was part of the initial group that formed after a Oklahoma rally for the legalization of marijuana in February. About a dozen people came together to draft the amendment and it was filed by Charles “Chip” Paul on behalf of the Tulsa organization, Oklahomans for Health. They have 90 days from the filing to gather 155,216 signatures.
“We are aiming to get 200,000 signatures, because we know a percentage of them will be invalid,” said Grove. “We’ve received tens of thousands so far, but we know some people are sitting on thousands of signatures that need to be turned in.”
Anyone registered to vote in Oklahoma may sign the petition. It must be on legal-size paper, and there is not an online version to sign electronically. It is a felony for a person to sign it if he or she is not a registered voter or is signing another person’s name.
Two stores in Tahlequah are gathering signatures for the petition: Evolution, 1761 S. Muskogee Ave.; and T&B Blasters, 704 S. Muskogee Ave.
Margie Close, manager of T&B Blasters, said the store has had the petition since May and is on its fourth sheet of signatures. She lets all her customers know about it and has had people come into the store just to sign it. Even people who claim to not smoke marijuana have signed it because they have learned of the medicinal benefits of the plant.
“We need to exercise our right to self-medicate,” said Close. “I don’t see how they can make nature illegal. Most of the benefits don’t come from smoking it, but from the oil. Edibles heal you from the inside-out.”
Her fellow employee, Josh Wolf, agrees. Wolf used to live in California and has a medical marijuana card from there. His son passed away due to complications from chronic seizures.
Doctors put the boy on multiple prescription drugs, and Wolf wishes he had known at the time that cannabis oil can help subside seizes.
“I’m not going to let anyone one suffer anymore,” said Wolf. “Cannabis without the THC doesn’t get you high; it just helps cure. People have the right to choose to have it or not.”
SQ 773 includes over 35 medical conditions that would qualify someone to get a medical marijuana license.
A person would have to fill out an application from the Oklahoma Department of Health, have a physician’s signature, and pay a fee for the lifetime license.
Along with the medical conditions, the amendment sets the quantity of marijuana or derivatives a person may possess and the amount of tax to be imposed, which is 7 percent of the total sale.
The tax proceeds will go toward financing the regulatory offices, and any amount over will be split between the Oklahoma State Education general fund and the Department of Health for drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
Requirements and details about applying for dispensary, growers, packaging, and transportation licenses are also in the state question.
Grove said the organization is having a difficult reaching people in rural areas.
Mostly volunteers have been using the Internet and word of mouth to inform the public. He came up with the idea to have a team of people travel throughout the state.
“Most people have been overwhelmingly supportive,” said Grove. “We’ll get hundreds of honks and maybe one middle figure a day from people driving by the mobile site. The most positive part so far have been the number of people in towns we visit that sign up to volunteer.”
Those who wish to learn more about the petition or sign up to gather signatures can go to www.legalizeOK.org. Follow along with updates from the Oklahomans for Health organization and its van at www.facebook.com/oklahomansforhealth.