Patrick B. McGuigan
The approaching popular verdict on State Question 788 continued to intensify in the past few days, highlighted in the clashing perspectives of two established physicians, each with strong Oklahoma credentials.
Dr. Kevin E. Taubman, co-chairman of the “S.Q. 788 is NOT medical” coalition, and an immediate past president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, said in comments sent to The City Sentinel and CapitolBeatOK that the ballot initiative in question is deeply flawed. Dr. Taubman said:
“Oklahomans must realize this upcoming ballot is a vote on Oklahoma State Question (SQ) 788, NOT true Medical Marijuana as advertised. This is a bad public health policy and that does not resemble a legitimate medical treatment program.”
Taubman continued the legislation is “a flawed framework that effectively is a shell bill for recreational marijuana with nothing resembling any other model legislation nationwide.” He said in his statement the initiative is “unlike any other medical marijuana programs in other states,” in that it “requires NO medical conditions in order to get a license for this drug. The current language states that if any Oklahoman age 18 years or older is ‘able to articulate a medical need’ would be sufficient enough to obtain a license for two years. This alone opens the door to indiscriminate granting of licenses with no oversight.”
Dr. Taubman pointed to the Sooner State’s “crippling Opioid epidemic,” warning that “adding broad access to marijuana without any specific legitimate medical guidance only creates greater opportunities for abuse and addiction in this vulnerable population.” The initiative provisions, he and other foes of the measure contend, “would grant broad authority to those who can make treatment recommendations far beyond M.D. and D.O.s include other individuals such as podiatrists, dentists and optometrists.”
Taubman believes the measure’s tax surcharges would “fall far short” of revenue needed to cover costs the state Department of Health will incur to cover “infrastructure and operational costs.” Taubman further contends companies would face new burdens as they seek drug-free workplaces, raising safety and other concerns.
The measure, Dr. Taubman said, would allow “a licensed person to possess the equivalent of over 80 joints and 72 ounces of edibles.” Taubman and allies “are also concerned by the experiences of other states regarding increases in toxic exposure and accidental ingestion of edible marijuana products by children.”
On the other side of the intensifying debate, a news report from Tulsa, and local speeches by a national advocate of medicinal marijuana, made a case for the measure significantly opposite Dr. Taubman’s.
According to Ashley Holt, a reporter for Tulsa television station KJRH, the mother of 19-month-old Lincoln Poole advocated for the ballot proposition at a Tulsa event on Friday (June 8). The child had epilepsy and cerebral palsy at birth.
The mother, Lauren George, “always knew she was a fighter, she’d pull through it.” Doctors had told the mother her daughter would not be able to move, feed herself or talk. The girl has had seizures and was on two medications. Side effects, Lauren said, led her to take her daughter to several doctors.
The mother said her daughter was prescribed CBD oil last March, “and the seizures almost immediately stopped.”
Also quoted in Holt’s television report was Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, who asserted marijuana and its related compounds have benefits. “And that can really help the brain recover from something like epilepsy, every seizure is an injury to the brain,” Aggarwall said during a visit to Tulsa on Friday.
Dr. Aggarwal, a graduate of the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics (OSSM) in Oklahoma City, works as a clinical instructor at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
According to a biography from advocates for S.Q. 788, sent to CapitolBeatOK, Aggarwall’s “professional medical and scientific work is in the use of cannabis in clinical practice, medical research and educational settings.”
After traveling from Tulsa, Aggarwal spoke in Norman on Saturday, June 9. In his talking points, provided to CapitolBeatOK, Aggarwal addressed what he believes is the utility of medicinal Cannabis for managing chronic pain. He outlined the “pharmacological actions of exogenous cannabinoids,” through what he desribed as the “endocannabinoid system receptor modulation.”
Dr. Aggarwal affirmed what he characterized as valid uses of cannabis “in clinical settings.” In Saturday’s presentation, he also described ways patients should be screened and monitored if prescribed medicinal cannabis.
As reported here a week ago, the groups working on both sides of the initiative appear well organized.
The proposal qualified for the statewide ballot after a 2016 initiative petition campaign, gaining valid enough signatures a few weeks too late to make that year’s ballot.
In January, Governor Mary Fallin scheduled the State Question 788 for the June 26 primary election ballot.
U.S. Sen. James Lankford and a range of state faith leaders joined forces in recent weeks passionately to argue for “no” votes.
Supporters of the initiative have advanced the “yes” case in an equally determined manner.
While the proposition has enjoyed majority support in public opinion surveys, the volatility of voters sentiments on contentious ballot measures is well-documented. The stage is set for a dramatic final act on State Question 788.