Point of view: Let's make this the year of kindness, healing
It seems to me that we — Oklahomans and this nation — are experiencing a lot of pain. We are no doubt in the middle of an ecological crisis — a breakdown of our relationships. But there is hope. Our relationships are not irreparably broken, and I know we Oklahomans can move toward kindness and healing. We already are.
In 2019, after years of exploitation by an opioid industry that values profits over people, Oklahoma was among the first states to hold opioid manufacturers accountable, resulting in a judgement and potentially large damages award that will help Oklahomans struggling with addiction. Gov. Kevin Stitt, in an act of hope and compassion, commuted the prison sentences of hundreds of Oklahomans. Of course, there are pending appeals from the opioid industry and our prisons are still too crowded, but we are moving in the right direction.
Furthermore, Oklahomans are exploring alternative remedies to physical pain. In 2018, voters legalized medical marijuana. More than 200,000 Oklahomans received their medical marijuana cards in the first year of the program. It’s no coincidence that such overwhelming numbers correlate to Oklahoma’s legal battle with the opioid industry (and Oklahomans’ frustration with the status quo of health care).
Interestingly, in a recent article in The New Yorker titled “A World Without Pain,” health professionals are just starting to understand the endocannabinoid system — that area of the brain responsive to marijuana. The article features a woman, Jo Cameron, who can feel most of the rest of the sensations that other humans feel, but not pain. The article says, “The most striking difference between her and everyone else is the way she processes endocannabinoids ... Cameron has a [genetic] mutation that makes ... her endocannabinoids build up.”
Later, one of the scientists studying Cameron comments, “the work also rais[es] profound social questions. ‘Spending time with her, you realize that if we only had more people like Jo — who are genuinely nice, pleasant, do not give in to anger …’” The scientist trails off wistfully, but the implications of his words are clear: A society with less pain and more kindness sure would be nice. Let’s not rush to salvation in marijuana, but gosh, this idea that kindness is adversarial to pain, let’s rush to that!
As always, there will be good, bad and ugly legislation proposed in Oklahoma in 2020. Where our legislators fail, we’ll vote for real changes. One bill from Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, seeks a resolution naming 2020 the year of the Bible. If what Dahm is really seeking is a resolution that declares 2020 the year of kindness, loving our neighbor and healing from pain, then I’m all in!
Sowecke is an attorney at The Law Office of Tim Sowecke, PLLC, and is part owner of a licensed medical marijuana cultivation business.