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Oklahoma Legalizes Medical Marijuana, Rescinds Ban on Smoking

The state with the country’s harshest marijuana laws became the 30th to legalize medical cannabis when Oklahoma voters passed State Question 788 by a 56% on June 26.

The measure allows licensed patients and/or caregivers (18 years old or older) to grow up to 12 plants and create a commercial market with dispensaries, cultivators, processors and testing labs. To apply for the latter licenses, you’ll need to be 25 years old. Read the text of SQ 788 here.

Updates: On July 10, the state’s Board of Health added several new rules to the law: one bans the smoking of marijuana flower or bud and another requires each dispensary to have a pharmacist. On July 27, after receiving criticism over its «emergency rules,» the health department rescinded the smoking ban and the pharmacist requirement.

Prior to the election, possession of any amount of flower, hash, concentrates or paraphernalia were misdemeanors punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine in Oklahoma, and sale or distribution were felonies, punishable by a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $500,000 fine for flower and $50,000 for concentrates. These laws are still in effect for recreational use, possession and sales. See NORML’s guide to Oklahoma Laws & Penalties here.

Marijuana Policy Project state policies director Karen O’Keefe stated: “The passage of State Question 788 highlights the strength and diversity of public support for laws allowing the medical use of marijuana. Most Oklahomans agree that patients should be able to access medical marijuana safely and legally if their doctors recommend it. It’s noteworthy that this measure passed in such a red state during a primary election, when voter turnout tends to be older and more conservative than during a general election. Support for medical marijuana is overwhelming, and it spans the political and demographic spectrums.

SQ 788 Is Not Medical spent more than $400,000 to defeat the measure.

“We’re pleased to see state officials are already working on developing a regulatory framework for medical marijuana and hope they’ll include patients, advocates and other stakeholders in the process. It’s important that patients have reliable access to the products that work best for their conditions. Oklahoma officials can learn a lot from the successes and shortcomings of other states’ programs and hopefully they’ll create a system that will serve as an example for other states in the region.”

Dr. Kevin Taubman of SQ 788 Is Not Medical, which spent more than $400,000 to defeat the measure, commented: «We’re obviously disappointed by the outcome as we believe 788 is simply too broadly written to be considered a legitimate medical marijuana program. However, we respect the will of the voters and our member groups look forward to working with the Legislature and the Health Department to advance common-sense regulations that benefit patients while protecting businesses and communities.»

Predictably, Republican Oklahoma Senator James Lankford opposed the measure: “If you read it, it’s a recreational marijuana bill. It’s very clear the way it’s written, to allow people to have access to it, in quantities they can grow, they can store, they can have, and it’s very open on how you get a prescription and what it can be for. So, it’s most definitely an opening toward recreational marijuana. I do not think the best thing that we can do for our kids is to get their parents and grandparents to smoke more marijuana. I have yet to see a single employer come to me and say, ‘You know what I really need? I need more employees at lunch smoking marijuana before they come back for the afternoon. That’s what I really need more of in my workplace.'»

Yes on 788 raised $31,630 and spent $167,368. SQ 788 Is Not Medical PAC committed $443,000 to commercials opposed to 788 as well as $10,000 for social media and $47, 563 for yard signs in the days leading up to the vote

Polling showed support among voters for SQ 788 was 57%, which proved to be accurate.

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