Coalition created to battle against medical marijuana state question
Six weeks before a statewide vote, Oklahoma medical, law enforcement, business and religious groups announced a coalition on Tuesday to defeat the legalization of medical marijuana.
"This question is too broad and does not have the support of the medical community," said Dr. Kevin Taubman, immediate past-president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association and campaign chairman of the new coalition.
A statewide vote on the medical marijuana issue, State Question 788, is scheduled for the June 26 primary election ballot.
The name of the new organization, SQ 788 is Not Medical, zeros in on one of opponents' biggest criticisms of the proposed law change — that it would permit doctors to approve the licensing of marijuana use for practically any purpose.
Rather than identifying specific ailments for which marijuana can be prescribed, the proposed law says "there are no qualifying conditions."
The Oklahoma State Medical Association is listed as a member of the new coalition. So are such diverse groups as the Oklahoma Pharmacists Association, State Chamber of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Sheriffs' Association, Catholic Conference of Oklahoma and Oklahoma District Attorneys Association.
The coalition has formed a super PAC, a political action committee that can accept and spend unlimited campaign contributions.
“The business community has serious concerns about how this state question is written,” said Roy Williams, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. “This state question infringes upon our rights to operate a drug-free workplace. Our opposition centers around our concerns for the safety of employees and the public.”
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Pat McFerron, a campaign consultant for the coalition, said opponents of SQ 788 believe it is so loosely written that veterinarians would be able to sign documents that would enable persons to obtain marijuana licenses.
"It does not make sense that an 18-year-old can go to a veterinarian, say he gets headaches, and then be given a two-year license to carry enough marijuana for 85 joints," said Mike Waters, Pawnee County sheriff and president of the Oklahoma Sheriffs' Association.
Chip Paul, spokesman for the pro-medical marijuana group Oklahomans for Health, disputed arguments of the coalition group.
"I don't even know what you say about that. It's beyond ridiculous," Paul said.
Paul contends Oklahoma's proposed law is more restrictive than other states because it would require doctors to put their "professional reputation on the line" in approving marijuana use for a particular patient rather than just checking a box that says a patient has a particular ailment.
The new coalition issued a news release that said the state question "is worded in a way that prohibits municipalities, landlords, employers and even schools from regulating the activity of medical marijuana."
McFerron said hotel operators are concerned that even if they have a no smoking policy, they won't be able to stop someone with a license from using marijuana in a motel room because it is not a tobacco product.
Paul strongly disagreed.
"That's ridiculous," Paul said. "Anyone can restrict you from smoking on their premises."
Taubman said the June vote is not about whether marijuana has medicinal benefits.
"In fact, members of our coalition are not unanimous in opposition to all medical marijuana laws. But we all believe SQ 788 is not medical and encourage our fellow Oklahomans to vote no on 788," Taubman said.