Oklahoma’s Marijuana Vote
Early voting will begin on June 21st at 8:00 a.m., and according to early polling numbers Oklahoman’s are supporting State Question 788 at a margin of 2 to 1. Although support for the initiative is high, there are some Oklahoman’s who have questions about the legalization of marijuana in Oklahoma and just what it means for the state.
Currently, marijuana is legal in some form in thirty states as well as Washington D.C. here in the United States. There are many variations on regulations and just what is legal and what is not. In some states, medical marijuana is legalized but recreational use is not. For example, in Louisana, cannabis is only legal in its non-smokeable form, while in Colorado, marijuana is legal for recreational purposes just like alcohol and tobacco. Oklahoma, by the way, is bordered by three states that have legalized medical marijuana.
Marijuana License Costs
The cost of an Oklahoma Medical Marijuana license would be $100 and there would be a need said license every 2 years. If you are an Oklahoman that is on Medicare or Medicaid aka SoonerCare, medical marijuana license would cost $25. Licensed patients could have up to three ounces of marijuana on their person and up to eight ounces at their home. They could also legally grow plants – up to six mature plants and six seedlings.
Under Stat Question (SQ) 788, medical marijuana patients would pay 7% sales tax, in addition to any local and state sales taxes, which would fund the state’s regulatory activities. If this tax generates a surplus, 75% would be directed to education through the general revenue fund. The remaining 25% would go to the Oklahoma State Department of Health for drug and alcohol rehab programs.
Does Legalized Medical Marijuana Lead to an Increase in Impaired Driving?
There is no clear evidence in this issue. The Department of Transportation did present a report to Congress in 2017 on marijuana-impaired driving. The report stated:
“The scope and magnitude of the marijuana-impaired driving problem in this country cannot be clearly specified at this time.”
Medical marijuana has been legal in the state of Colorado since voters approved it in 2000. Colorado Department of Transportation spokesman Sam Cole said that the state has not seen an increase in impaired driving, even after recreational marijuana was improved in 2012.
“As long as there has been marijuana and automobiles people have been driving high, so this isn’t something that has started since legalization,” Cole said. “But we’ve had the opportunity since legalization to raise public awareness and educate and address the issue.”
After medical marijuana was legalized, Colorado has not seen an increase in traffic fatalities, Cole said. In fact, there has been no sign that would allow one to conclude that legalized marijuana has affected traffic safety overall.
“Really when it comes to impaired driving in Colorado, alcohol dominates. We see close to a third of fatalities in Colorado involve a drunk driver. That compares to about 8 percent for marijuana,” Cole said. “Alcohol is a much bigger problem, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to address marijuana.”
Once again this is a tough issue to call either way. There was not any comprehensive data collected in the states that now have legalized marijuana prior to legalization to make an informed decision either way. Colorado is one of the states that does have that data. Colorado state health officials conduct a random, anonymous survey every year aimed at middle and high school students. The survey asks about their drug and alcohol use.
“We are pretty confident in our findings, because we’ve had the same methodology for so many years before and after legalization,” said Dr. Daniel Vigil, who manages the marijuana health monitoring and research program for the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment. “Based on our largest youth survey, marijuana use did not increase from before to after legalization,” he said.
Vigil said they have found that about 20 percent of Colorado teenagers report using marijuana in the past 30 days, which is about the national average. Marijuana use also did not go up in young adults aged 18-25.
“It hasn’t gone up, but that is the group with the highest use frequency,” Vigil said. “About 25 percent of 18-25-year-olds use in the past 30 days, so about 1 in 4. About 1 in 8 use daily or near daily.”
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