Oklahoma marijuana reform | 2018

State implements legalization of medical marijuana, but prospect of a vote on recreational marijuana unexpectedly fades

With an Aug. 8 deadline looming, Oklahoma’s Green the Vote group looked well on its way to collecting enough signatures to place an initiative legalizing recreational marijuana on the ballot. But just days before the deadline, the group’s leaders revealed that they had deliberately—and significantly—inflated the number of signatures they had gathered in an effort to build momentum. The group submitted its signatures to the Secretary of State’s office on Aug. 8, but the prospect of a vote on recreational marijuana has dimmed.

Advocates have enjoyed a far more successful last few months when it comes to medical marijuana. In a June 26 referendum, Oklahomans approved Question 788, which legalizes the medical use of marijuana, 57 percent to 43 percent. This expansive measure enables doctors to license the use of marijuana for any medical condition, and allows people to possess and grow larger amounts of marijuana than do many other states with similar statutes.

Shortly after the June vote, the state’s health board adopted emergency regulations that restricted the measure. These regulations, which Governor Mary Fallin signed into law, banned the sale of smokable marijuana and added a requirement that dispensaries employ a licensed pharmacist. But this provoked widespread complaints that the board lacked the authority to pass regulations modifying the content of Question 788, and state officials soon changed course. In early August, the health board and Fallin rescinded their earlier rules, lifting the ban on smokable marijuana and the pharmacist requirement. Tulsa World’s Samantha Vicent recently reported on other outstanding issues that the Oklahoma legislature may have to tackle in its next session. But until then medical marijuana is ready to go: Question 788’s implementation begins later this month.

published Aug. 16, 2018 | Daniel Nichanian