Updated on June 28, 2021.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
With a ballot measure approved by voters in Oklahoma on Tuesday, June 26, 2018, the state became the 30th in the nation to legalize medical marijuana. A total of 57 percent of voters were in favor of this change, which will give doctors the right to prescribe cannabis for any condition they feel would benefit from it. This comes as a surprise to many, as Oklahoma is considered one of the country’s most conservative states. Not only did they approve this measure, but it is also one of the most liberal medical cannabis laws in the country, allowing doctors to use their discretion when prescribing marijuana.
The bill faced much opposition from many state officials but passed despite their open comments against the measure. Those who support medical marijuana legalization believe this shows the growing acceptance of cannabis treatments in our nation as a whole. It also confirms that the support of access to legal medical marijuana is a nonpartisan issue, as Oklahoma is historically a red state.
Leading up to the Election
Like many states, although Oklahoma didn’t have a comprehensive medical marijuana law in place, it did allow limited access to non-psychoactive cannabis extracts. However, the state reserved these medicines for those with seizure disorders or other severe medical conditions. Oklahoma State Question 788 gave voters the chance to vote on this issue for themselves. However, it faced vocal opposition leading up to the election. Dissidents included religious groups, the business community and even government officials like Governor Mary Fallin, Republican Senator James Lankford and others.
In fact, many believe officials placed the measure on the June primary election ballot in an effort to sink its chances. In general, older, more conservative voters attend these elections compared to the general elections in the fall. They may have hoped that younger voters and other demographics who are more in favor of medical marijuana would be less likely to vote.
In a last-ditch effort, many different groups, like the Oklahoma Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorneys Association openly campaigned against the measure. There was even a $500,000 advertising blitz from an opposition group who tried to derail the vote.
In contrast, those in support of the medical marijuana legislation didn’t receive much funding from national drug policy reform groups. Defying all the odds, voters approved the initiative during the June primary election.
What This Means for Oklahoma Residents
Despite all the opposition, the fact that Oklahoma voters approved State Question 788 is a huge step forward for medical marijuana legislation both here and in the U.S. as a whole. It means that despite official opposition, the state is still acknowledging the voice of the people.
Unlike other state programs, Oklahoma will not have a set list of qualifying medical conditions. This means doctors will be able to use their discretion and prescribe cannabis treatments to those they feel would benefit.
Although Governor Fallin did not support the measure, she has said she would respect the will of the voters. Her main fear was that this law would open the door to the legalization of recreational marijuana. To ensure the health and safety of Oklahoma citizens, she will work with lawmakers this summer during a special legislative session. Their goal will be to:
Determine how best to proceed
Establish a regulatory framework
Ensure medical cannabis use will truly be for valid medical illnesses
What’s Included in the New Law?
Although the new law is subject to amendments and provisions, as drafted, it would implement a program that would make accessing medical marijuana easier than in other states. First and foremost, the Oklahoma State Department of Health would open and administer a new office. Their responsibilities would be to:
Any adult over the age of 18 would be allowed to get an ID card as long as they have authorization from a board-certified physician. Minors would need the approval of two physicians, as well as permission from their parent or legal guardian. Patients could also designate a caregiver to purchase or grow cannabis in their stead.
Once they have their state ID card, patients would be able to:
Possess up to three ounces of cannabis in public
Store up to eight ounces at home
Cultivate up to six mature plants and six seedlings
Possess one ounce of cannabis concentrates
Even patients without a medical marijuana identification card would receive a level of protection from the new law. Those caught with less than one and a half ounces of marijuana would only face misdemeanor charges as long as they state they have a medical condition. This type of offense would be punishable by no more than a $400 fine.
Once the new law is enacted and put into place, it will be a good source of revenue for the state government. Businesses that cultivate, process, transport and dispense medical marijuana would have to purchase a license from the state’s medical marijuana office. In addition, there will be a seven percent retail tax placed on cannabis purchases. All revenue earned above what’s needed to run the medical marijuana program would go to the state’s education budget, as well as drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs.
Looking Toward the Future
Although there is no set implementation date, Governor Fallin has stated lawmakers will begin discussing the implementation of this law as soon as this summer. This means Oklahoma patients could be receiving medical marijuana treatment in the very near future.
As a vocal advocate for medical marijuana laws throughout the United States, we at MarijuanaDoctors.com will keep you up-to-date on all changes occuring in Oklahoma and beyond. More states will be voting on similar legislation this fall during the general elections, and we will be here to report the results.
Once Oklahoma has established their medical cannabis program, you’ll never have to look far to find a qualified prescribing physician. We’re here to connect you to the top medical marijuana doctors in Oklahoma.