Poll shows support for change on OK marijuana law
IT is clear the State Board of Health may have exceeded its legal authority in initially approving some restrictions on medical marijuana. Even so, recent polling indicates the approved policies were within the Oklahoma mainstream.
One regulation imposed by the board was to require that a licensed pharmacist be employed at every medicinal marijuana dispensary. In a recent poll of 404 likely Oklahoma voters, conducted by SoonerPoll.com for two TV stations, voters were asked if they supported or opposed that regulation. Nearly 51 percent supported the requirement with 38 percent strongly in support. Just 43 percent were opposed.
Voters also were asked about the board's decision to ban the sale of smokable marijuana. On that question, voters were evenly split with 46.6 percent in favor and 46.7 percent opposed. Given that nearly 57 percent of voters supported legalizing medical marijuana in June, the poll results suggest many people who supported medical marijuana are nonetheless opposed to people smoking the plant.
After the Board of Health voted to impose many restrictions on medical marijuana, activists argued the public would support eliminating any restrictions on marijuana use. The SoonerPoll results indicate the opposite. When voters were asked if they would support or oppose the proposed State Question 797, which would legalize recreational use of marijuana, 62 percent were opposed with nearly 49 percent strongly opposed.
These results are worth noting because lawmakers are considering legislative changes to the state's medical marijuana law. Many legislators, seeing the support for medical marijuana in June's elections, have appeared skittish to make sensible changes to the law. But the SoonerPoll results indicate voters are more pragmatic than are the most vocal marijuana activists. The latter group includes many who have made clear their goal isn't medical treatment, but free rein to engage in recreational drug use.
We were among those who opposed the medical marijuana proposal because it was so poorly drafted that it amounted to a soft legalization of recreational use. When the state question received strong support, despite abundant publicity regarding the fact it was effectively legalizing recreational use, some saw that as a sea change in the attitudes of Oklahoma voters.
SoonerPoll's results show the majority of Oklahomans still oppose recreational use and want a valid regulatory system in place that will facilitate only legitimate medical treatments. Many who voted in support agree with the idea of making various products available to cancer patients or epileptics, but don't want the streets filled with people lighting a joint just for kicks.
The Board of Health reversed some of its previously approved regulations because experts, including the Office of the Attorney General, believed the board exceeded its legal authority. But legislators can change the law to authorize sensible regulations that ensure marijuana is used only for valid medical uses. Lawmakers shouldn't hesitate to do so and should understand the loudest voices in this debate don't necessarily speak for the majority of Oklahomans.