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Senators Vote To Expand Medical Marijuana Access For Military Veterans In Key Committee August 4, 2021
Senators Vote To Expand Medical Marijuana Access For Military Veterans In Key Committee

A group of activists in Oklahoma wants to put a pair of cannabis initiatives on the state ballot in 2022, one that would overhaul the state’s massive medical marijuana system and another to legalize cannabis for all adults 21 and older.

While the medical and adult-use measures would appear on the ballot separately, they’re designed to work together and even overlap to some degree, said Lawrence Pasternack, an advocate and Oklahoma State University professor who helped write the draft initiatives. “There’s a robust statewide, grassroots effort to develop both a constitutional medical petition and a constitutional full-access petition,” he told Marijuana Moment. “They’re designed, if they both pass, to function in parallel to one another.”

The medical proposal would create a new state agency to regulate all types of legal cannabis, including hemp and high-THC marijuana, and would establish funding for programs including research, environmental remediation and mental health services. The adult-use proposal, meanwhile, would allow any adult 21 and older to purchase marijuana products from existing dispensaries. Individuals could also grow up to 12 cannabis plants at home and keep or give away the marijuana it produces.

The adult-use proposal would also make changes to the medical program and the state’s criminal justice system. If passed, it would establish a 15 percent tax on nonmedical sales to adults but reduce taxes on medical products from the current 7 percent tax down to zero. It would also provide for the expungement of past cannabis-related criminal convictions.

Advocates don’t envision the creation of a separate adult-use cannabis market, even if both measures become law. Instead they want to transform the state’s medical marijuana program—under which nearly 10 percent of all state residents are already registered—to allow adults to make purchases.

“Unlike states that have a small medical program, we have a program that effectively is like a full-access program already,” Pasternack said, noting that by some estimates, Oklahoma has more operating dispensaries than any other U.S. state—and more than double the number in California.

Voters passed the existing medical marijuana law in 2018 on a 57–43 margin, in a midterm primary election. Unlike many state medical marijuana programs, it does not require patients have any specific qualifying conditions; doctors can recommend cannabis for any condition they see fit.

“From the perspective of many people in the state, they see it as a full-access program with a hoop to jump through,” he added.

Even with such a permissive program, however, thousands of Oklahomans nevertheless face the risk of criminal prosecution for cannabis. “Despite the fact that anybody can get a card,” Pasternack argued, “between 4,000 and 6,000 people continue to be charged with simple possession” in the state each year.

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