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Peaceable assembly

A large group of Oklahoma cannabis advocates met with lawmakers and other policymakers at the March on the Capitol 2020.

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Feb. 20, cannabis advocates spent the day talking with lawmakers, making speeches and listening to patient testimonials at the March on the Capitol - BIGSTOCK.COM
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  • Feb. 20, cannabis advocates spent the day talking with lawmakers, making speeches and listening to patient testimonials at the March on the Capitol

Medical cannabis advocates and patients marched to the Capitol last Thursday, meeting with legislators and sharing stories of their successes since State Question 788 was passed.

About 200 people met on the south side of the building before gathering in the second-floor rotunda. There was a steady stream of speakers in both morning and afternoon sessions. Among them were politicians, activists and patients.

“We’re really trying to be open and receptive to information that we get from the industry, people that have been in this process and people that know and are affected by it, so please allow us to kind of work with you,” Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) director Travis Kirkpatrick said.

He had been serving as the interim director after Adrienne Rollins left the agency. He was recently named as director.

“I appreciate the opportunity to come into this as a bureaucrat, someone that comes in that’s really just trying to have a service-oriented kind of SEE approach: service, effectiveness and efficiency. … We may not always agree, but we can always agree that we’re going to be transparent, communicative and assist whenever we can,” Kirkpatrick said.

Rep. Scott Fetgatter, R-Okmulgee, also spoke to the gatherers. He was recently named assistant floor leader of the state House of Representatives.

“Not everybody agrees with you. That’s just a fact. We have as many people bending our ears on the opposite side of the issue on any given issue at any given time, and we have to weigh out what we feel is best for the safety and the state of Oklahoma,” Fetgatter said. “We base that on the feedback we receive from people like yourselves.”

A man interrupted Fetgatter with a statement about the “57 percent,” a reference to the percentage of voters who turned out to vote on SQ788 that voted in favor of the initiative.

“I get the 57 percent and, look, if you know me well enough, you know you just get the straight, blunt answer,” Fetgatter said. “The 57 percent of people that voted in that election, yes, but it wasn’t 57 percent of all the people in the state of Oklahoma, so you have people on both sides. That’s all I’m saying. So go to your representatives and please go see your senators.”

He said he thinks there are about a dozen bills that have been filed for this legislative session that are “pro-patient and pro-business” for the medical cannabis community.

Among these are bills are two that Fetgatter has authored that would modify the state’s DUI laws where cannabis is concerned and allow dispensaries to grind and roll cannabis instead of requiring a processor license. Fetgatter also said shell bills will also allow for home delivery, bestowing reciprocal rights on cannabis patients from other states and remediation, which would allow contaminants to be stripped from cannabis and the resulting products could be sold if they passed further testing. Other bills would benefit hemp manufacturing and processing in the state, which was made legal in Oklahoma prior to SQ788 and was federally legalized in December 2018.

Patient testimonials

After breaking for lunch and meetings with their individual senators and representatives, they reconvened in the rotunda for another round of speeches, which were primarily patient testimonials about how access to medical cannabis had changed their lives.

Teresa Grossnicklaus opened the afternoon session. She said she suffered from a genetic hepatic disease.

“The thing about liver disease and my liver disease is that I struggle to metabolize medications, so when you’re given medications that you can’t metabolize, it just makes you sicker and sicker,” she said. “When I started with the cannabis, it was within the first year that my enzymes had dropped more than 200 points. Right now, almost six years later, my enzymes are at 10 and 15, so I’m healthier than probably most of you. … I changed my life, and I see a lot of patients every single day that are doing the same thing. They’re changing their quality of life. …  I’m seeing elderly patients now cut their medication more than in half. I’m seeing children with seizures no longer needing the majority or none of their medications. I’m seeing people with PTSD dealing with their issues. I’m seeing people with depression figuring out their own way, and it isn’t just about cannabis. It’s about us taking control of our bodies. It’s about us deciding the best choice and how to treat ourselves because at the end of the day, we’re the ones living in this body.”

Jack Caywood, a student and juvenile cannabis patient from Henryetta, also told his story of dealing with ADHD and anxiety among other ailments. It was his first time to speak publicly, though he has formed a group, Young Weediez, to help educate people about medicinal cannabis use for minors.

“I have ADHD and chiari malformation and dyslexia, and I’ve never really been good at reading. Since I’ve started medicating with cannabis, my test scores have went up two grade levels. ... My mom would have to come get me from school and then take me back to our house so I could medicate there, and so we talked to our principal and she talked to the school district, and then after a long battle, I get to medicate at school now,” he said.

Jack said he uses flower and tincture and edibles to curb the aforementioned issues as well as anxiety and anger issues. His mother, Lori Sisson, brought his test results with him for people to review.

“From about third grade until seventh grade, he scored from a 2.2 to a 3.2 on his reading tests. The 3.2 was taken in 2018, and then in 2019, after he started medicating, he scored a 6.6,” she said.

The event was rounded out with a speech by Chip Paul. He is the founder of Oklahomans for Health and was a key figure in writing SQ788, getting it on the ballot and the efforts to ensure it passed at the ballot.

Paul pointed out that due to its lack of qualifying conditions, Oklahoma is the only state with more than 6 percent of its population participating in the medical cannabis program.

“Do you know how many states have 5 percent? Zero. Do you know how many states have 4 percent? Zero. Do you know how many states have 3 percent? Three. It ain’t many,” Paul said. “We’re in a unique position. We have a beautiful, wonderful program. We need to protect it.” 

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