Today, residents of Oklahoma will vote on Question 788 - a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana in the Sooner State.
If approved, Oklahoma—one of the most conservative regions in the country—would become the 31st state to legalize medical marijuana, further chipping away at the absurd basis for the federal government's ban on all forms and uses of cannabis.
Here's what you need to know about Oklahoma's medical marijuana initiative.
What Question 788 Would Do
If approved, Question 788 would make medical marijuana available to certain patients in Oklahoma.
Patients 18 or older will require a signature from a physician to receive a medical marijuana license that is good for two years. After that, patients will have to consult with a doctor to get their license renewed.
The state will also offer visitors a temporary (30 day) license if they can prove that they are a licensed patient in one of the other 30 states where medical marijuana is legal. That provision sets Oklahoma's initiative apart from many other jurisdictions, which typically focus only on patients residing within the state.
Unlike New York and other states, the initiative doesn't set a list of qualifying medical conditions, so doctors would have to assess a prospective MM patient's needs based on "accepted standards a reasonable and prudent physician would follow when recommending or approving any medication," according to the initiative's language.
Licensed individuals would be able to possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis flower on their person in public and up to 8 ounces at home, where they can also keep up to one ounce of concentrates or 72 ounces of edibles. They will also be allowed to grow up to 6 mature plants and up to six seedling plants for personal consumption.
The initiative would also allow the state to license cannabis dispensaries, which would have to be located at least 1,000 feet away from schools. A tax rate of 7 percent will be placed on all medical marijuana sales.
Those in Favor
Question 788 was put on the ballot by the advocacy group Oklahomans for Health. It is also being back by State Senator Anastasia Pittman (D), who says the initiative is crucial to providing the best patient care in Oklahoma.
"Thousands of children and elderly Oklahomans suffer from some medical condition where marijuana is the only affordable treatment they can find," Pittman said. "It is time we change the law to make this type of treatment under a doctor's care in Oklahoma."
Meanwhile, some supporters are backing the bill because they're interested in trying marijuana for medicinal purposes. “For myself, I would be interested in a prescription for it to see if it works better than my anxiety and depression medications," Bobby Griffith - a Presbyterian pastor and member of the advocacy group Clergy for a New Drug Policy - said recently.
And he's not the only minister who is defying stereotypes by supporting marijuana reform.
"Some people said I couldn't be a pastor and support medical marijuana, but I would say most of the people I know, including the Christians I pastor, are in favor of it," Pastor Danny Daniels told the TimesUnion.
Not all pastors are in favor of legalizing medical marijuana. US Senator James Lankford (R - OK) - who is an ordained Southern Baptist Pastor - has denounced Question 788 as a wolf in sheep's clothing. He claims the initiative is a “recreational marijuana vote disguised as medical marijuana.”
And he's not the only one who feels that way. The State Chamber of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Sheriffs' Association and the Oklahoma State Medical Association have all accused Question 788 as a backdoor attempt to increase cannabis use in Oklahoma, which they see as a threat to the very social fabric of the state.
“The best thing for our state is not to get more parents and grandparents to smoke marijuana,” Senator Lankford added. “To have our communities more drug-addicted and distracted, that doesn’t help our families. It doesn’t make us more prosperous. It doesn’t make our schools more successful.”
Question 788 stands an excellent chance of passing, according to last month's SoonerPoll, which found that 57.5 percent of Oklahomans supported medical marijuana while only 29.6 percent were opposed. So even if the 12.9 percent of undecideds swing to the 'no' camp, the clear majority of voters still favors legalization.
So despite what you've heard about 'Okies from Muskogee,' Oklahomans are very progressive on the issue of medical marijuana.
The Bigger Picture
If Oklahoma approves Question 788, then there will be almost as many medical marijuana states as there are NFL teams in America (32). Moreover, the victory would put pressure on Texas to reform its laws. The Lone Star State would become the lone holdout of marijuana reform as the rest of its neighboring states - New Mexico, Louisiana and Arkansas - have already legalized medical marijuana.
And if seeing their neighbors take a more compassionate approach to marijuana policy doesn't get Texas lawmakers mulling over reform, then watching their coffers grow just might.