By Nathan Fox
While Oklahoma is okay with medical marijuana, recreational marijuana is out of the question.
On March 7, nearly 62% of Oklahomans voted no on State Question 820, which would have allowed the sale of marijuana to individuals over the age of 21. Voting in favor of SQ820 would have also allowed for those incarcerated due to marijuana-related crimes to seek modifications for their current sentences.
“I voted no on State Question 820,” said Abigail Clark, a former dispensary employee. “While I support the use of medical marijuana, I don’t believe that it should be recreationally available. It’s how I feel, and how I’ll probably always feel. Marijuana is medicine, not just something to do on a rainy day.”
Clark is not alone in her thoughts on this issue.
“I’m definitely not voting in favor of recreational marijuana,” said Ryan McDuffy, a medical marijuana license holder. “The nature of marijuana is that it is inherently medicinal. Allowing for the use of it recreationally would definitely be a detriment to those who currently use it for its medicinal purposes.”
In 2018, Oklahomans voted in favor of State Question 788 allowing for the sale and distribution of medical marijuana to licensed individuals. Oklahomans for Health, a nonprofit based in Oklahoma City, spearheaded the effort in 2016.
That same year, Petition Number 412 made it to the desk of then Oklahoma Secretary of State Chris Benge and was finally introduced as SQ788 on a pivotal summer ballot. While the debate surrounding marijuana legalization in any capacity has been contentious, SQ788 was approved. After tallying the nearly 900,000 votes, 56.8% voted to legalize medical marijuana.
This was not the first time a group attempted to legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma. In 2014, then Sen. Connie Johnson in conjunction with David Slane, an Oklahoma City defense attorney, tried drafting an initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma. Their initiative contained much more literature concerning decriminalization as well as language detailing the viability of marijuana becoming a cash crop for Oklahoma farmers.
Ultimately, this two-person team failed to procure the thousands upon thousands of notarized signatures necessary to appear as a state question on 2014’s November ballot.
Prior to SQ788, former Gov. Mary Fallin signed House Bill 2154, more commonly known as Katie and Cayman’s Law. This bill allowed physicians to prescribe high-CBD oils, not in excess of 0.3% THC.
Big Tobacco poses another threat to those with a vested interest in medical marijuana. In 1970, George Weissman, former president of Philip Morris, one of largest tobacco companies in the world, penned a memo which addressed the impending threat that cannabis could have on the tobacco industry.
“While I am opposed to its use, I recognize that it may be legalized in the near future,” Weissman wrote, “We should be in a position to examine: No. 1, a potential competition; No. 2, a possible product; No. 3, at this time, cooperate with the government.”
In 2016, Philip Morris International invested $20 million into an Israeli cannabis company, Syqe Medical. In 2017, Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA, invested $1.8 billion for 45% of Canadian cannabis company, Cronos Group. Upon completion of the investment, Altria published a “10 Year Plan” on their official website, which said they planned to, “Help position Cronos as a leader in a highly responsible, regulated and legalized U.S. cannabis market.”
Considering these examples of Big Tobacco’s vested interests in cannabis if recreational marijuana becomes federally approved, Big Tobacco could quickly pivot and become Big Cannabis.
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