Oklahoma, a midwestern state in the US is well-known for some of the harshest marijuana laws in the country. In spite of almost 29 other states having legalized marijuana, out of which some have legalized medical marijuana alone, the state of Oklahoma still remains on the conservative side. Marijuana can be said to be illegal in almost all ways in Oklahoma with the small exception of the use of CBD oil for very specific medical purposes.
However, hope is around the corner for the state. On June 26, 2018, a new ballot Initiative called Question 788 will be presented for a vote by the citizens, meant to legalize medical marijuana in the state. If the initiative is successfully passed with a good majority, Oklahoma will become the 30th state in the country to legalize medical marijuana.
The current ban on the drug goes way back in 1933 when it was done as part of a larger scale country-wide initiative to ban the drug. As of today, illegal possession of any amount of marijuana as a first offense will attract a punishment of one year in prison. As a second offense, the punishment will be 2 to 10 years of jail time along with a fine of up to $500,000 as it will be considered a felony. In case of illegal selling and distribution, the charges will be a felony and can invite steep fines and jail time.
After the initial ban, in 2014, a group petition was circulated by the Oklahomans for Health calling for the legalization of medical marijuana on the ballot. The petition would have passed had it gained a majority of signatures at the ballot, but it failed to gather a sufficient number and was hence ineffective.
Later, in 2015, a new petition was filed by Green the Vote, encouraging a whole drive to place the issue of medical marijuana legalization on the ballot in 2016. This petition did manage to gather the required amount of signatures to pass, but it met with other technical issues.
Allegations were made that Attorney General Scott Pruitt had altered a certain usage of words in the petition to become misleading in several ways. This led the Oklahomans for Health to file a case against the ballot alteration and the Supreme Court of Oklahoma made the judgement to reinstate or restore the original language of the petition. Owing to these legal disputes over technical issues, the initiative could not be taken up for consideration at the time and was pushed to 2018.
Fortunately, a ballot date was declared for the petition by Governor Mary Fallin – January 4, 2018. Furthermore, June 26, 2018 was declared to be the date for a referendum initiative.
In 2015, Governor Fallin also signed a bill in to law allowing clinical trials of CBD oil. It was however specifically mentioned that this particular law is not an indication of the full legalization of marijuana.
As per the initial limited Oklahoma medical marijuana law, protection will be provided for patients who are 18 years of age or below, who have been diagnosed with severe forms of epilepsy in the likes of LennoxGastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome. In 2016, this law was diversified to include adults as well, and the scope of symptoms was widened to include severe intractable nausea, severe vomiting, paraplegia as well as chronic wasting diseases resulting in appetite stimulation.
In order to become eligible for protection by law in cases of any of the abovementioned circumstances and to possess and use CBD oil, the patient must obtain a legitimate recommendation in writing from a state-licensed physician. The CBD oil being recommended by the physician and used by the patient must not contain more than 0.3% of THC which is the most potent psychoactive element in marijuana responsible for the high effects.
However, in spite of providing very specific regulations in the eligibility, use and recommendation of CBD oil, the law completely failed to address the issue of availability for purchase. Since there are no legalized medical marijuana dispensaries in Oklahoma to sell the necessary medicine to the qualifying patients, the law stands ineffective till date.
The new ballot initiative proposed for the year 2018, called the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative is said to bring a unique system of medical marijuana in the country, when compared to other states – if it is passed by the legislation. The scope of the initiative includes the cultivation, use and possession of marijuana for medical purposes and interestingly, the law would not prescribe a list of qualifying medical conditions for the eligibility of medical marijuana use in the state.
The other 29 states in the U.S where medical marijuana has been legalized have listed qualifying medical conditions. The Oklahoma medical marijuana program, if implemented, would not have such a list; instead the eligibility of the patients would come under the discretion of the licenses physician and they will have the right to prescribe the kind of medicine that best suits their patient.