This month’s Southern Oklahoma Leaders’ Luncheon will weigh what medical marijuana could mean for Oklahoma.
Ardmore Chamber of Commerce Membership Development Coordinator Janee Auten said she thought the topic was timely, and would give people a chance to absorb the information before State Question 788 — which would legalize medical marijuana in the state — comes up in June.
She said she saw August Rivera, a substance abuse preventionist, speak about the topic at a conference and invited him to do the same in Ardmore.
“He gives a very unbiased perspective,” Auten said. “He just presents the facts about states that have already legalized it, how it’s gone, and what ailments medical marijuana can help with. It’s just a way to help people make an informed decision on their own.”
Auten said some people have expressed skepticism about the event.
“We’ve had a few comments from people who think we’re bringing this in because we’re against this,” Auten said. “We’re not taking a side. People need to know the facts, both pro and con, so they can make up their own minds.”
August Rivera worked in the Department of Human Services’ Child Welfare division for 11 years. He now works as a substance abuse preventionist with Eagle Ridge
“Substance abuse was part of 95 percent of the cases I was investigating (with child welfare) and it’s heavily influenced my worldview,” Rivera said. “With this substance, I want to make sure the public has the right information.”
Rivera said his presentation will be more geared toward the business and income side of the issue. He’ll be discussing medical marijuana’s potential as a revenue source, the bureaucratic structures other states have put in place to deal with businesses who sell it and other economic factors.
“I argue it’s not going to be the revenue producer people think it’s going to be,” Rivera said. “It will create a bureaucracy the Oklahoma State Department of Health Department isn’t prepared to tackle, especially considering they’re under investigation right now.”
Rivera said other issues, like federal laws that still prohibit medical marijuana, employee drug testing and zero tolerance policies, could further complicate things.
“I’d hate to see all of that infrastructure go into place only for the federal government to say ‘nope,’” Rivera said. “If we’re going to do this, I’d hope to God we did it correctly.”
 The luncheon is slated for 11:30 January 18 at the Ardmore Convention Center. Prior reservations is required for attendance and attendance is now closed.