Last year a grassroots campaign of activists worked hard for many months in order to try and put a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot for last November’s election. Their efforts were successful, but just a little too late – while their ballot initiative was approved, voters will not actually get a chance to say yes or no to State Question 788 until the next election in November of 2018.
Luckily, legalizing medical marijuana through legislature is very much a possibility in Oklahoma. Quite a few states have chosen to go this route in recent years and more continue to follow. Representative Eric Proctor intends to introduce House Bill 1877 this week, which would give patients with one of several chronic medical conditions access to medical marijuana much sooner than the next election, if passed.
Specifically, the bill reads that it would protect qualifying patients from “arrest, prosecution or penalty in any manner or denied any right or privilege, including without limitation a civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau.” So as long as patients comply with regulations, this law would ensure they were not arrested at a state level for using a medicine they know will work.
The list of conditions suggested in HB1877 includes cancer, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, Hepatitis C, ulcerative colitis, Alzheimer’s, glaucoma, any medical condition where the symptoms (or treatment) cause wasting syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, intractable pain (defined as not relieved by any other measures), severe nausea or seizures – as well as any condition later approved by the state Department of Health. For the most part, this bill looks like it would certainly cover a large majority the patients who could potentially benefit from medical marijuana.
Along with protecting patients and giving doctors the right to recommend medical marijuana when they feel it would be beneficial, the bill would also allow the state to create a regulated system for the cultivation and dispensing of medical marijuana. It would also give patients the right to choose a caregiver, who could grow the plant on their behalf (or likely be the one to pick it up from the dispensary for them if travel is out of the question for the patient). Lastly, the bill would create a Medical Marijuana Commission who would oversee the licensing of cultivation, processing and dispensing facilities in the state.
Overall, this bill would do more or less what the ballot initiative is trying to do – only it would be able to do it a whole lot sooner. The bill will have to be formally introduced and reviewed by House committees before it will be able to be voted on by the full House – after which it will head to the Senate to be reviewed and voted on once again before hopefully landing on the Governor’s desk for it to be signed into law.