Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, who chairs the state Senate Health and Human Services Committee, will determine if the interim study merits a legislative hearing. He said he is open to the educational value of such a study, but not legalizing marijuana. “I don’t want to prejudge their efforts, but my main concern is the recreational abuse of this drug,” said Crain. “My question is: What are we trying to accomplish here?”
Johnson said she wants to give voice to Oklahomans who are in pain and searching for alternative options to drugs with unwanted side effects. “I believe people have a right to access government and government has a duty and responsibility to listen its people,” she said.
The study, she said, would dispel myths and eliminate stigmas associated with pot. “Let’s turn this over to the health care professionals who are qualified to make these decisions.”
As Oklahomans increasingly engage in the national conversation of this issue — thus far, 17 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medicinal cannabis — advocates for the drug say they are optimistic.
“This is the first time in Oklahoma history that this movement has gotten this far,” said Mike McGee, a patient advocate and former police officer. McGee suffers from degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis and severe arthritis. “I have to take 27 pills per day and the side effects damage my heart and liver,” he said.
“We’ve had it this way since 1937 and it’s had its fair shot. Now it’s time to hand it over to the doctors.”
Mark Woodward, spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, welcomed the idea of an interim study, but said he is opposed to medicinal marijuana. “We have seen in other states that most grow clubs are involved in fraudulent activity and the illegal sales of marijuana,” Woodward said.
“Legalizing marijuana would only make it more accessible to recreational users.”
Norma Sapp, state director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, disagrees.
“Legalizing marijuana will take it off the black market and make it less available to those who abuse the drug,” she said. According to Sapp, the black market introduces people to other, more serious, drugs.