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Oklahomans Not Likely to See Medical Marijuana on November Ballot

29-Aug-2016

In recent days, proponents of medical marijuana announced that their petition to get State Question 788 on the November ballot had garnered more than enough signatures to bring the issue of medical marijuana to Oklahoma voters in a matter of months.

However, despite having in excess of the required number of signatures, it is highly unlikely that Oklahomans will actually have the opportunity to vote for or against allowing medical use of marijuana in the state. 

Oklahomans for Health, the sponsors of the petition, say that SQ 788 will allow access to necessary medical care by removing the prohibition against marijuana, allowing the substance to be used for valid medical reasons. According to Oklahomans for Health, "This measure legalizes medical marijuana for residents with a recommendation from an Oklahoma Board Certified Physician. It also legalizes commercial medical marijuana dispensary, growing, and processing licenses regulated by the Department of Health. It protects card holders from discrimination and lowers penalties for unlicensed possession."

It certainly sounds good. After all, doctors are able to prescribe narcotic and highly-abused opiod painkillers for legitimate medical purpose. Why not marijuana, which has been demonstrated to be effective in treating seizure disorders, ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), glaucoma, cancer, and HIV. 

And it seems as if more than 86,000 Oklahomans agree that the issue should be taken to the state's voters.

But because of looming deadlines which Oklahomans for Health was unable to meet, voters will not likely have a voice in this matter until June or November 2018.

Oklahomans for Health say they are challenging Attorney General Scott Pruitt's changes to the measure's title. Pruitt says that he had to change the title to clarify the measure and bring it up to legal standards, but Chip Paul, a spokesman for Oklahomans for Health accuses Pruitt of "cherry picking" language for the title in an effort to promote fear and misunderstanding by voters. 

Attorney General Pruitt says that the issue not appearing on the ballot has less to do with his language change than with the supporters' failure to meet deadlines for allowing the full approval process:

"We are dealing with processes established in both federal and state election law for initiatives proposed by the people that require specific procedures to be followed. It's important for the people of Oklahoma to know -- regardless of the substance of the state question -- the signatures were not submitted with enough time to allow this process to be played out completely."

Paul admits that his group's planned legal challenge to the title change will push the question beyond the November ballot.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has been following the issue in Oklahoma, and calls the supporters' attempts to get the measure on the November ballot "fumbling," saying, "If State Question 788 doesn't make November's ballot, proponents have no one to blame but themselves."



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