After meeting Wednesday, the Carter County Substance Abuse Prevention Committee is considering taking preventative measures to address potential consequences of medical marijuana legalization.
Wichita Mountains Prevention Network representative Jayci Enerson said the committee’s focus has primarily been on opioids in the past as efforts were based around grant funding to address the crisis.
However, as that funding comes to an end, several committee members raised concerns about and expressed a desire to begin taking a look at potential hazards associated with medical marijuana use.
Oklahoma agencies are currently working to gather data on any changes in crime rates or DUIs subsequent to the passage of State Question 788, which went into effect July 2018, Ardmore Police Department Deputy Assistant Chief of Police Kevin Norris said during the meeting.
APD Capt. Keith Ingle said there does not appear to have been a large increase in DUIs or crime related to medical marijuana legalization in Ardmore. However, Ingle said he expects that to eventually change as individuals become more comfortable with the usage of marijuana.
According to the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics 2018 Drug Threat Assessment, OBN agents seized around 2,132 pounds of marijuana from vehicles traveling through Oklahoma in 2017 alone, representing a 42.9% increase since 2016.
However, law enforcement in Oklahoma reported fewer marijuana-related arrests — such as possession of marijuana and sale or manufacturing of marijuana — in 2017, according to the assessment.
The main danger law enforcement is concerned about is those who drive while impaired, Norris said. Driving under the influence is considered impairment regardless of the substance, Carter County Sheriff’s Department officer Kevin Jackson said at the meeting.
According to the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, the potency of marijuana has more than tripled in the past 20 years. Without proper education on how to use medical marijuana, individuals could face many hazardous situations, said Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers representative Wadonna Wells.
An edible form of marijuana can take up to 45 minutes to take effect, for example, and some individuals may take much more than needed prior to getting behind the wheel, she said.
“The doctors aren’t telling them that, they’re just signing the papers,” Norris said. “We need to teach responsibility and education.”