NHSO: Oklahoma left unprepared for medical cannabis as legislature fails to act

Willy Jones, one of the area organizers for Oklahomans for Health, holds a sign in support of medical marijuana during a petition drive outside a vapor shop in Oklahoma City. Photo Sue Ogrocki/AP.

OKLAHOMA CITY – The decision by lawmakers to adjourn early without legislating on medical cannabis has left Oklahoma unprepared for the likely transition to legalization, according to members of New Health Solutions Oklahoma (NHSO), a local trade group representing businesses and investors in the medical cannabis sector.  
On June 26, Oklahoma voters will have the opportunity to legalize medical cannabis by voting "yes" on State Question 788. Early polling data indicates the measure is likely to pass, with approximately 62 percent of voters saying they support legalizing medical cannabis.
Both proponents and opponents of medical cannabis asked the Legislature to proactively create rules and regulations that would support a responsible and safe rollout of a medical cannabis program in the event that SQ 788 passes. Rather than doing that, lawmakers instead chose to end their legislative session early, with many hitting the campaign trail.
That decision was irresponsible, said NHSO Executive Director Bud Scott.
"If voters decide to legalize medical cannabis in June, the state needs fair, responsible and enforceable rules and regulations," said Scott. ""Ending the legislative session without creating that regulatory framework was irresponsible and will delay access to medical treatment for thousands of Oklahomans. If and when SQ 788 passes, our lawmakers need to return to the Capitol in a special session and do their jobs."
Scott said SQ 788 was designed to give voters a chance to say "yes" or "no" to medical marijuana; it was never intended to replace the Legislature and state agencies' role in regulating an orderly and safe marketplace.
"I have seen firsthand how medical cannabis can help cancer patients, children with life-threatening seizures, veterans with PTSD, and many others suffering from debilitating pain or illness," said Scott. "When State Question 788 passes, we need a system in place that actually allows these people access to the medicine they are legally entitled to. It's the Legislature's job to create that system. If they don't act, sick people will continue to suffer. I think voters will see that and realize very quickly that they've been hoodwinked by lawmakers who want to avoid the issue for political reasons."
Even opponents of SQ 788 should support responsible rules and regulations in the event the measure passes, said Scott.
"When prohibition ended, supporters and opponents of alcohol legalization worked together to create a system of responsible rules and regulations governing who could sell alcohol, when and where it could happen, and who could buy it,' said Scott. "The same is true of medical cannabis. Regardless of whether or not you support legalization, it is just common sense that we need a regulatory infrastructure in place. This isn't about partisanship or ideology; it is about governing responsibly."
Scott said NHSO will ask lawmakers to call a special session after the June 26 primary vote if State Question 788 passes.

The Gayly. May 11, 2018. 10:38 a.m. CST.