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Oklahoma Voters Pass One Of The Nation’s Most Progressive Medical Marijuana Bills

By Roger Malespin photo/istock/Tiago_Fernandez 

In a surprising move, voters in the heavily conservative state of Oklahoma have approved a medical marijuana bill that allows patients to receive cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation. This vote is particularly noteworthy because while most medical marijuana laws have a set list of ailments that cannabis can be prescribed for, the Oklahoma initiative allows patients to receive it for any condition, making this one of the most progressive pieces of legalization in the country.

The increasing awareness of the science behind the benefits of medical marijuana is a large part of the shift in conservative states. Last year, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released a widely-viewed report on the benefits of medical marijuana, and voters were especially attentive to the evidence of cannabis’ effectiveness at reducing chronic pain in adults, as well as nausea and vomiting in cancer patients.

Under this new measure, Oklahoma patients with a medical marijuana license will be able to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana in their residences, carry up to three ounces, and grow up to 12 marijuana plants. The limits for possession and cultivation are stricter in many other states, and some states, such as New York, mandate that the drug cannot be smoked.
Additionally, the measure reduces penalties for possession of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana for any individual with a medical condition, regardless of whether they have a medical marijuana license.

What does this say about the legalization movement overall? For starters, it highlights the shift in attitudes towards marijuana across the entire country. Oklahoma is a deeply conservative state that voted for Trump by a margin greater than 2-1 in 2016. Historically, it is these conservative places that were the most opposed to marijuana or any drug legalization, so such a progressive measure there is strong evidence for cannabis being accepted in American society.

Secondly, it shows that republican voters are going against their representatives on the subject of cannabis. The measure passed with more than half the voter in favor, but it wasn’r due to lack of trying from Oklahoma republican lawmakers. Senator Lankford and Governor Mary Fallin both spend time and money advocating against the measure, but voters are more informed than ever before and are well aware of the opioid crisis ravaging many parts of rural America. They want action, not tired old rhetoric. 

It also shows that legalization is one of the few issues that are non-partisan at a time when most issues seem more divisive than ever. “Public support for medical marijuana access is non-partisan,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said in a statement. “Even in a predominantly ‘red’ state like Oklahoma, it is the will of the voters to enact common sense, yet significant marijuana law reforms.”

This measure passed with little to no outside support from pro legalization groups, who did not put much effort because it seemed unlikely to work in Oklahoma. It had significant opposition from established politicians and groups such as the Oklahoma Sheriff's Association. What this shows more than anything is the power of information. Everyone in the cannabis community who spreads knowledge and awareness to combat the old time propaganda thought is helping things like this happen all over the country. Stay informed and stay active - your voice matters.