Oklahoma will vote Tuesday on State Question 788 which delves into the controversial issue of marijuana use in the state. Currently, there are 29 states that have adopted the hemp plant into their medical programs for its health benefits. Nine of those states have legalized recreational use of the drug since first permitting its medicinal use. Now, Oklahoma is entering the debate. The state seems to be turning over a new leaf when it comes to the drug despite being known for its rampant conservatism and stringent war on drugs.
Marijuana legalization is a trend that is swaying the oppositional views of most states and conservatives everywhere. In Texas, Republicans announced they would back industrial hemp. States like Michigan and Utah are voting to legalize the use of marijuana in some form later on in the year. New York is in the midst of weed-related debates. It is everywhere, and it has now reached a state that has repeatedly penalized users for this drug. It is one of the states with the highest incarceration rates in the country.
State Question 788 will decide the use of medicinal marijuana in the state. It is the product of rallying support and signature drives but is facing opposition due to its lenient language. Under it, exactly which diseases qualify for marijuana licenses is not specified. These physician-granted cannabis licenses would grant anyone with it to grow, use, and carry up to three ounces of marijuana at a time. Those with this such permit would face no penalties for marijuana possession, of course, and would also be able to have up to eight ounces of it in their residences. State Question 788 also discusses employment matters. Under it, employers would be unable to fire an employee based on drug tests finding traces of marijuana in their systems.
Half a million dollars was put towards fighting it. Politicians, religious leaders, and law enforcement officials were among some of its most prominent adversaries. Despite strong disagreement over the drug, views on the controversial drug have changed in recent years. Majorities do not consider it to be the dangerous, gateway drug that it was previously thought to be. Many American voters, in fact, rally for full-blown legalization.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health is currently in the works of regulations that could amend some of the ambiguous language contained in State Question 788. Some of the amendments from the Health Department would include requiring clinicians to go through extensive training before being able to write prescriptions for patients, and another restricts where people can smoke. Much in the same way many public spaces are ‘no smoking zones’ in America, they will become ‘no marijuana smoking zones’ as well.
Those who support the legalization of medicinal hemp in Oklahoma have expressed concerns over incarcerations. In 2014, Oklahoma jailed 700 people per every 100,000. In 2016, it was named the second in the nation in highest incarceration rates and number one in female incarceration, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Additionally, it has been number one in female incarceration for more than 25 years. In taking these steps to legalize medicinal marijuana, many hope that the state’s jailing rates will go down. Two years ago, Oklahoma voters called to make all drug possessions misdemeanors despite warnings from prosecutors and law enforcement officials who vehemently disagreed with the motion. Today, carrying small amounts of methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana are considered misdemeanors in the state. These changes were made in an effort to effectively reduce incarceration rates within the state, but marijuana may not even be a misdemeanor with State Question 788. Many disagree with the question because its vague language is, to them, full-blown legalization. Gov. Mary Fallin has reportedly announced that she intends to hold a special session to further discuss the issue of the vague language in State Question 788 if the question passes.
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