By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Newspaper
OKLAHOMA CITY – On Thursday, Jan. 4, Governor Mary Fallin established June 26 as the date Oklahomans will vote on the state’s medical marijuana ballot measure.
Fallin filed an executive proclamation placing State Question 788 on the June primary election ballot. The governor’s other option was to place the issue on the November general election ballot.
State Question 788 would legalize marijuana for medical purposes in Oklahoma. Obtaining a state-issued medical marijuana license would require a board-certified physician’s signature. People with licenses would be permitted to possess up to three ounces of marijuana on their person and eight ounces of marijuana in their residence.
Supporters of an initiative petition asking voters to legalize medical marijuana gathered enough signatures in 2016 to schedule a statewide referendum on the measure.
“Backers of this proposal to legalize medical marijuana followed procedures and gathered the more than 66,000 required signatures to submit the issue to a vote of the people,” said Fallin. “I’m fulfilling my duty as governor to decide when that election will occur this year.”
A total of 67,761 signatures were gathered, nearly 2,000 more than needed.
If approved by voters, the measure would permit doctors to recommend a patient, who is at least 18 years old, for a state-issued medical marijuana license. A license holder would be allowed to legally possess up to 3 ounces of the drug, six mature plants and six seedlings. Oklahoma cities and counties would have the power to amend the restrictions.
In a statement sent to The City Sentinel, Oklahomans for Cannabis Legalization (OFCL) founder Michael Boyd said, “We were excited to hear of Gov. Fallin’s decision to set the date for SQ788 as June 26, 2018. A look at any recent poll will show you that we as a state are ready to legalize medicinal marijuana today. We are confident our fellow Oklahomans will come together and vote yes on SQ788.”
Boyd says the group plans on “doubling-down” on their public education efforts to “ensure that every voter knows the many benefits associated with the legalization of medicinal marijuana.
“We have a rally planned on April 20,” Boyd added. “We will focus on motivating Oklahomans to register to vote at this rally and will continue our education campaign.”
Oklahomans for Health, another pro medical marijuana legalization group based in Tulsa stated: “OK4H feels very positive about the June election, while it gives us a shorter window for education and outreach we still feel that with a lot of hard work we will get a favorable vote this coming June.”
Earlier this week, recreational pot became legal in California – the sixth state to allow sales of recreational marijuana.
Tracking the cannabis industry, New Frontier Data stated in its 2017 annual report, “Cannabis is now legal in the most populous state in the country…dramatically increasing the total potential size of the industry.”
Also on Thursday, just prior to Fallin’s release of the June Oklahoma voting date, Attorney General Jeff Sessions suddenly announced the repeal of Obama guidelines on dealing with state laws that allow for recreational use of pot.
Sessions, a longtime opponent of marijuana use, called the move a “return to the rule of law.” He has received criticism from those on both sides of the issue.
Studies have shown that marijuana has possible benefits for several conditions such as epilepsy or seizures; multiple sclerosis; nausea, vomiting or severe wasting associated with cancer treatment; chronic pain and Crohn’s disease.
Thirty states have now legalized medical marijuana and eight states have legalized recreational marijuana as well, according to a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts.