The state Legislature recently put a bow on a session jammed packed with drama, theatrics and threats. With the state’s business concluded for the session, most legislators will shift focus to their primary challenges or move on to other pursuits - unless voters approve the medical use of marijuana with State Question 788 on the ballot June 26.
The Legislature is now making plans for a special session to address concerns with implementing and regulating medical marijuana.
Area legislators Rep. Pat Ownbey, R-Ardmore, and Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Springer, addressed the issue Friday during the Ardmore Chamber of Commerce’s legislative luncheon at the Ardmore Convention Center.
Simpson said the legislators were currently in a holding pattern on the medical marijuana issue, opting to let voters decide the decision before the legislative body acts.
“There were a couple attempts come out of the Senate to address it (medical marijuana),” Simpson said.
Simpson and Ownbey expressed concerns over the language of the SQ, which they believe may be too lenient and would lead to rampant abuse and use, though Simpson was open to the use of medical marijuana in treating several issues commonly faced by veterans.
“I have had stories shared with me, that I’ve shared with medical professionals who said they were just anecdotal, stories about how medical marijuana has benefited them to deal with post traumatic stress and get them off multiple medications that they take. That may be anecdotal, but if you talk to these people it’s not anecdotal, it’s real life,” Simpson said,  adding that he currently had no plans to author legislation explicitly allowing veterans to possess or use medical marijuana in the event that SQ 788 fails in June.
Simpson also expressed concerns that the state’s health department currently lacked the resources to adequately implement SQ 788.
“I’ve been outspoken against it and I know that a lot of people who want to see it passed are concerned with how I’ve spoken out about it,” Ownbey said. “If it’s truly medical marijuana, it needs to pass with regulations. There really isn’t any regulation in there (SQ 788), but we will probably get some push back.”
The proposed special session won’t be the first attempt of the legislature to immediately try and overturn state questions. HB 1482,  which would have addressed the language in State Questions 780 and 781 — redefining penalties for drug possessions and minor property crimes —  passed through the House, yet failed in the Senate less than four months after voters approved the items.
“What this vote is going to tell us is whether the people really want medical marijuana,” Ownbey said. “The way it is addressed in the referendum it’s more recreational than medical.”
Ownbey said a doctor-authored bill addressing medical marijuana was filed in the Senate during the previous session but never made it to a vote on the floor.
“If the state says ‘yes, we really want medical marijuana’ then it is something we will have to address,” Ownbey said. “If this passes, we will address it but the way this is addressed in the referendum, it’s more recreational, it’s not medical.
The state question does stipulate that licenses require a  board-certified physician’s signature but does not stipulate what aliments or medical conditions can or should be treated with medical marijuana. The SQ also allows patients to grow their own marijuana.”