Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – Tuesday (June 26) will conclude voter consideration of State Question 788, the measure advocates believe would open the way to physician-guided use of marijuana and its derivatives in controlled, medically-needed circumstances.
However, state physicians have emerged as among the most ardent critics of initiative measure.
Such doctors have banded together with business organizations and others in the group called the “SQ 788 is NOT Medical Coalition.”
The Oklahoma State Medical Association (OSMA) hosted a press availability June 20 at the association offices, 313 N.E, 13 Street.
Dr. Robert McCaffree was among the respected medical professionals pressing arguments at the recent press conference. Insisting he was not “speaking for or against medical marijuana,” he said he is against the ballot initiative’s “lack of control of combustible marijuana.”
“We have made progress with great effort over the past decades in reducing combustible tobacco and have learned important lessons. I am concerned that the current wording of SQ788 is an attack against all the lessons our tobacco fight have taught us,” McCaffree, a Regents Professor of Medicine at the OU Health Sciences Center, said.
In detailed talking points provided to this reporter, he pointed out, “smoked forms of marijuana remain the most prevalent [around 90 percent of users. … Any time you light something on fire and create products of combustion, it’s not going to be good for your health when inhaled. Marijuana smoke contains bronchial irritants and carcinogens similar to that of tobacco smoke, and is associated with adverse respiratory effects such as airway inflammation and pulmonary infection.”
He observed medical practitioners “have made good progress in de-normalizing use of combustible tobacco. To allow the unfettered public use of combustible marijuana runs the risk of making public smoking acceptable again.”
As have other critics of the state question, McCaffree believes its wording would prohibit “cities from making reasonable accommodations so the rest of just can be protected from … second-hand smoke. This was a favorite ploy by tobacco companies to protect their product and Oklahoma should not make that mistake again.” He also focused on concerns about a drop below age 21 for purchase of the product.
Another speaker at the recent briefing was Rodd Moesel, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau president. As summarized in tweets circulated by Catherine Sweeney, a reporter for The Journal Record (a business newspaper), Moesel was reported saying farmers are “employers in our communities.” He pointed to ongoing grain harvests and said farm equipment “can cause serious injury and death if not used carefully.”
Moesel also reflected the belief that wider use of marijuana would increase worker shortage problems, adding, “We’ve seen the damage that opiods and meth have wrought on the state’s social fabric. We’re concerned about broadening the gateway opportunities.”
During the recent press event, John Smaligo of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) echoed some of Moesel’s points. He reemphasized contentions made in a June 14 press release sent to The City Sentinel and other news organizations.
Smaligo said “the so-called ‘medical’ marijuana ballot question creates serious concerns for workplace safety for our member companies, their employees and the public.” He contended the lack of details or limits in the ballot initiative would hurt efforts of employees to maintain drug-free workplaces.
“This legislation would seriously impede, if not entirely eliminate our member companies’ ability to prevent drug impaired employees from being removed from operating heavy equipment or even being hired in the first place.”
Sweeney reported that Pat McFerron, a well-known polling specialist, weighed in on food safety. “He noted that edibles are often candy, brownies or other sweets, and that it’s difficult to keep children’s hands off these kinds of foods.”
At the press conference, examples of candies and other edibles were placed on a table. Photographs of these exhibits were widely circulated after the event.
Other speakers at the event included OSMA President-Elect Dr. Larry Bookman, Dr. Leroy Young, Rev. Paul Abner, and Tuttle Mayor Aaron McLeroy.