Oklahoma voters legalized medical marijuana in the state’s primary election on Tuesday (June 26). The ballot initiative passed with 56 percent support.
The regulations are some of the broadest in the country, offering no list of qualifying conditions and instead allowing board-certified physicians to prescribe medical marijuana in cases where they believe it would be effective. Oklahoma patients 18 and older will be able to obtain a two-year renewable license allowing them to carry up to three ounces of cannabis and grow up to six plants at home.
The initiative passed despite a last-minute opposition campaign organized by local businesses, law enforcement and medical professionals who believe the provisions of the ballot initiative are far too broad and could open the door to recreational use.
The opposition group, known as ‘SQ 788 Is Not Medical,’ spent more than $800,000 to defeat the bill with nearly $100,000 donated by the Oklahoma Medical Association, according to campaign finance records filed with the state’s ethics commission.
Earlier in June, local reports noted that the head of the Oklahoma DEA office, Richard Slater, had been traveling across the state campaigning against the initiative and warning voters of the dangers of legalization.
At a town hall last week, Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton forcibly removed a supporter of the Oklahoma ballot initiative, Chip Paul, who is now suing Walton for assault.
But despite the state’s red roots, not all conservatives and law enforcement representatives were opposed to the initiative. A pre-primary report from the Associated Press suggested that the issue was popular even among pastors and seniors in Oklahoma.
Meanwhile in Tulsa, Police Sergeant Marcus Harper voiced his support for the initiative in a Facebook post writing: “In 23 years, 6 months, 8 days, 3 hours, 22 minutes, and 28 29 30 seconds of my law enforcement career, I have never had a negative encounter with someone high on marijuana. All they want to do is sit down and eat.”
On Tuesday afternoon, the ballot questions’ organizers, Oklahomans for Cannabis, began reporting that some voters had not received ballots for the medical marijuana question at their polling place.
Prior to the vote, Oklahoma’s Board of Elections reported 40,000 people had cast early ballots. That number was split fairly evenly between Democrats and Republicans, deviating from previous years which not only saw a lower turnout but far less Democratic than Republican voters (election experts note that Republicans are more likely to turn out to vote in off years).
It’s not clear whether the higher turnout among Democrats was fueled by the medical marijuana ballot question although cannabis is increasingly becoming a single-voter issue across the US.