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420: Oklahomans for Health hopes to change Oklahoma statutes

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Read more of Oklahoma Gazette's special 420 coverage at okgazette.com

Days after Oklahomans for Health filed an initiative petition to ask state voters to legalize medical marijuana, William Patrick Jones was eager to begin.

After first working on a California medical marijuana farm — cultivating medicine later used to treat illness and manage medical conditions — the Oklahoma native became a proponent for medical marijuana expanding into other states. In 2013, he returned to Oklahoma after a year in Colorado. Jones saw the benefits of medical marijuana firsthand, as he did in California.

“There are so many ailments that this plant — which has been proven scientifically over and over again — helps reduce pain and, in some cases, cure diseases, from Crohn’s disease and epilepsy to PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] and chronic pain,” Jones said.

Jones’ experiences prompted his involvement in Oklahomans for Heath, a statewide grassroots organization that advocates for medical marijuana laws. More than 23 states have legalized marijuana for medical use, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Oklahomans for Health looks to add the Sooner State to the growing list as it pursues a petition to get the issue before voters on the November ballot.

During the summer of 2014, Oklahomans for Health volunteers collected more than 75,000 valid signatures in support of a medical marijuana question appearing on a statewide ballot. Proposed as a state constitutional question, the group fell short of collecting the necessary signature amount.

Chelsea Marlett-Kennedy collected 700 of the signatures by sharing stories of soldiers battling PTSD and Oklahoma children suffering from Dravet syndrome. It was important to share personal stories of children with brighter futures and veterans with painless days because of cannabis.

“I never once had a negative reaction,” Marlett-Kennedy said about the 2014 petition drive. “The people clearly want it.”

For the most recent petition, Oklahomans for Health switched tactics to call for statutory change. By seeking statutory reform, the group is required to collect signatures of registered voters equal to 8 percent of the last gubernatorial election. The movement needs exactly 65,987 valid signatures to put it on the Nov. 8 ballot for a public vote.

Under the proposal, new laws assert the rights of Oklahomans who wish to use marijuana for medical purposes. The group calls for the Oklahoma State Department of Health to regulate the medical marijuana licenses of patients, dispensaries, growers and transporters.

Additionally, medical marijuana would be taxed at 7 percent with proceeds first going to pay for regulations. Excess tax funds benefit the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s general fund at 75 percent and the state Department of Health’s drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs at 25 percent.

Marlett-Kennedy and Jones predict volunteers will begin collecting signatures in May.

(Christopher Street)

(Christopher Street)

Print headline: Good medicine, Oklahomans for Health presents a second petition to legalize medical marijuana. 

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