The establishment of a petition-signing effort for the legalization of medical marijuana has produced a buzz around Ardmore ... both good and bad.
Oklahomans for Health began gathering signatures for the petition Saturday morning in the parking lot of the Ardmore Public Library. While several hundred have taken the time to sign the petition, other residents have been concerned about the group’s right to have the petition on city property.
Jennifer O’Steen, Ardmore city attorney, said the city had received a couple of calls, and the group is not in violation.
“It comes down to a public forum, and we don’t have any restrictions that apply to this situation,” she said.
Gary Little is a volunteer for Oklahomans for Health, and said 350 to 400 signatures locally have been placed on the petition since the effort began Saturday. He said he gathered signatures until 3 p.m. Saturday; a group from Tulsa arrived in Ardmore and pitched in to gather signatures.
“We have not verified our signatures yet, but we are hopeful they will be,” Little said. “There are well over 70,000 signatures from across the state.”
The petition to place the question on the state ballot requires 156,000 signatures by Aug. 16. All signatures must belong to registered voters in the state. There were several who were unable to sign Monday morning, and were given registration forms to vote. Little said Joe Lacy is spearheading the effort in Ardmore. Volunteers for Oklahomans for Health will take signatures until early August.
“So far, we have not run into any static,” he said. “Some people drive by and flip us off.
“We are just trying to get this passed. It’s a long time coming. I have had a lot of people coming in with seizures, and they are ready for it. It’s time for the people of Oklahoma to step up.”
Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics spokesman Mark Woodward said the agency is naturally concerned about what passage would mean for drug usage in the state. Among the issues cited was easier access for kids as well as people being under the influence at work.
“We can learn from the problems in other states that have had it on the books, and that is why we have concerns,” Woodward said. “We believe we should be keeping more people off of drugs rather than make it easier for them to get it. And we think it sends a terrible message to kids voting to legalize drugs, and we can only hope it does not pass.”
Woodward said in looking at the websites, there is advocacy for recreational use rather than strict medical use.
“The other groups claim it is for medical use, but it is an excuse they use to gain support from the public,” he said. “We have a lot of concerns about what this would mean for the state at a time when drug use is epidemic.”
The measure, if passed in an election, would amend the state constitution. No prescription would be required for use. Instead, the State Department of Health would issue medical marijuana licenses based on three factors:
the applicant is 18 or over
the applicant is an Oklahoma resident
an Oklahoma board-certified physician signs the application, certifying the applicant has a qualifying condition.
There are 37 qualifying conditions, ranging from cancer to insomnia, and permits additional conditions. User licenses would be lifetime licenses regardless of the continuing existence of the condition.
Sellers in Oklahoma would have the following conditions:
be 25 or over
have a business plan
be registered to conduct business in Oklahoma
show ability to invest more than $100,000
A 7 percent tax would be imposed on medical marijuana sales. Persons with a legal medical condition would be allowed to possess up to three ounces of marijuana and six marijuana plants. Tax proceeds would finance the regulatory office. Should proceeds exceed the budgeted amount for running the office, surplus would be split, with 75 percent going to the Oklahoma State Education general fund and 25 percent going to the Oklahoma State Department of Health and earmarked for drug and alcohol rehabilitations.
The qualifying conditions listed for a medical marijuana card include the following:
AIDS or HIV infection
Migraine headaches or chronic headaches
Persistent headaches or chronic headaches
Seizures and Epilepsy
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Inflammatory bowel disease
Colitis (Chron’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis)
Chronic abdominal pain
Chronic pelvic pain
Chronic low back pain
A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or the treatment for a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that causes;
Cachexia or wasting syndrome
Severe or chronic pain
Seizures, including those characteristics of epilepsy
Severe or persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.