Oklahoma has become the 30th state in the U.S. to approve medical marijuana in a broad capacity, through a measure approved by the state’s contingency of voters. The measure passed June 26th by a margin of 57% to 43% and, in doing so, will free doctors to give medical cannabis recommendations as they deem beneficial to their patients.
In the majority of states with MMJ laws, the law dictates specific circumstances (e.g., conditions, disorders, diseases) in which a doctor can recommend cannabis. Without a comprehensive MMJ program in place, Oklahoma has operated under a law providing doctors and patients limited access to cannabis extracts which are not psychoactive in order to treat severe seizure disorders.
For the deeply conservative state of Oklahoma, approving such a broad MMJ proposal clearly indicates marijuana reform is now on the receiving end of mainstream political favor – which also happens to be good news for cannabis stocks.
The campaign faced several obstacles not in its favor. For one, it apparently didn’t have the benefit of support from the nation’s major drug policy reform groups, which have provided other states with significant funding in the recent election cycles to help MMJ measures pass. Additionally, opponents of the campaign invested around $500,000 in TV ads aimed at undermining the benefits of MMJ.
In spite of these drawbacks, however, the proposal was still approved. Again, this indicates cannabis reform may have finally established a place in mainstream politics to the point where voters in more traditional states are already leaning toward supporting reform initiatives once they’re on the ballot. According to one of the latest national polls, over 90% of American voters are in favor of medical marijuana; approximately two-thirds of these voters also support the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML, stated, “Public support for medical marijuana access is non-partisan. Even in a predominantly ‘red’ state like Oklahoma, it is the will of the voters to enact common sense, yet, significant marijuana law reforms.”
Oklahoma’s marijuana regulation will be generous to legal patients with state ID cards, as well as offering some protections to MMJ patients who have not applied for state ID.
Legal patients, per the drafting of the new law, will be issued state ID cards. These cards will allow them possession of up to three ounces of marijuana in public, one ounce of marijuana concentrates, 72 ounces of edible products infused with cannabis, and eight ounces stored at home.
Home cultivation will be permitted, up to six seedlings and six mature plants. Patients will also have the option of designating a caregiver to cultivate cannabis for medical purposes or purchase it on their behalf.
For MMJ patients who don’t follow the steps of obtaining an ID card through the state, Oklahoma’s new law will offer some protection. If they are caught in possession of no more than 1.5 ounces of cannabis and state their medical condition, they will face a lesser offense: a misdemeanor and a maximum fine of $400.
Additionally, Oklahoma will issue licenses for cultivation, processing, transportation and dispensing for MMJ businesses. The state will apply a 7% retail tax on MMJ sales, with revenue initially allocated to cover costs of regulation and implementation while the remainder will go toward education including drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs.
Marijuana stocks are keeping an eye on these provisions, however, as they are all subject to change and could likely be amended.
Oklahoma’s Governor Mary Fallin (R) views the new law as one allowing “recreational marijuana in the state of Oklahoma,” and is preparing to call a special legislative session among lawmakers to address the broad provisions.
The Governor has stated, while she “respect[s] the will of the voters in any question placed before them to determine the direction of our state, it is our responsibility as state leaders to look out for the health and safety of Oklahoma citizens.”
Fallin and U.S. Senator James Lankford (R) vocally opposed the measure prior to the vote, making appearances in a TV ad to persuade voters against supporting medical marijuana. Other state groups which campaigned against the measure were the Oklahoma State Medical Association, the Oklahoma District Attorneys Association and the Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association.
Again, even with this opposition, the voters passed the measure, indicating the tide seems to be turning to reveal a nation overwhelmingly in favor of marijuana legislation – including such deeply red states as Oklahoma.
Originally, the MMJ measure could have been on the ballot for Oklahoma’s general election in 2016; however, the Attorney General at the time, Scott Pruitt (now heading the EPA), disputed the ballot title, delaying the matter long enough to keep it out of the election. This time around, the measure was placed on the primary ballot by Fallin herself, a move some viewed as setting the initiative up for failure due to the typically smaller numbers of voters who vote in the primaries. Thankfully, for U.S. MMJ stocks and Oklahoma’s medical community, the move backfired.
Come November, voters in several more states should see measures aiming to allow MMJ or legalize recreational cannabis on their ballots.
For more MMJ news, read Ohio Hit the Brakes on Medical Marijuana Dispensary Licensing (What Does This Mean for MMJ Stocks?).