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.
If passed, this legislation will create a flawed framework that effectively is a shell bill for recreational marijuana with nothing resembling any other model legislation nationwide. Among several legitimate concerns and unlike ANY other medical marijuana programs in other states, Oklahoma SQ788 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. Furthermore, in a state already facing a crippling opioid epidemic, adding
broad access to marijuana without any specific legitimate medical guidance only creates greater opportunities for abuse and addiction in this vulnerable population. The Oklahoma state provisions 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.
Financially, it will task our already burdened State Department of Health to engage in a huge undertaking in just 60 days. The proposed tax surcharge will fall far short of the needed revenue to cover infrastructure and operational costs. In addition, SQ 788 is troubling to those tasked with public and occupational safety. For Oklahoma business owners it would likely eliminate the ability of any Oklahoma company to have a drug-free workplace, essentially creating a special class of citizen and employee who obtain a license. It will potentially remove employers’ ability to execute appropriate oversight for someone if they are impaired and unable to perform their job. This establishes concern for both overall public safety and safety in the workplace. It exposes a dangerous potential for employers and employees alike; as well as, the general public.
Given a liberally written component related to allowed quantities in possession, Oklahoma SQ788 allows a licensed person to possess the equivalent of over 80 joints and 72 ounces of edibles. Additional provisions do seek to protect those with a legitimate license; however, because of the lack of requirement for any legitimate medical diagnosis, this will essentially keep law enforcement from being able to charge anyone with “intent to distribute” marijuana. Another concern for public health and individual rights beyond the licensed individual is that there will be no equivalent restrictions such as with nicotine products; and will allow those with a license to smoke freely in public venues exposing others without the need for consent. This may include school settings as there is a provision to allow parents to sign a waiver for their children under 18 years of age. We are also concerned by the experiences of other states regarding increases in toxic exposure and accidental ingestion of edible marijuana products by children.
As a result, in Oklahoma, essentially every medical group and every chamber of commerce is opposing this state question for the health and economic future of our state.
Kevin E. Taubman, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Co-Chair, SQ 788 is Not Medical Coalition
Immediate Past President, the Oklahoma State Medical Association