Pubdate: Mon, 29 Aug 2016
Source: Oklahoman, The (OK)
Copyright: 2016 The Oklahoma Publishing Co.


AFTER several failed efforts, proponents of legalizing "medical" 
marijuana in Oklahoma may have collected enough signatures to put the 
issue before voters. So it's worth looking at the actual content of 
this measure, even though logistical challenges may postpone a vote 
until after November's elections.

Prior medical marijuana proposals have been laughably broad. The 
legal language for proposed State Question 788 is better, but 
problems and loopholes remain that should concern Oklahomans.

Proponents like to portray the proposed system as comparable to going 
to the drugstore for a prescription painkiller. But the language of 
SQ 788 undermines that image. Under the proposal, someone with a 
state-issued medical marijuana license could both produce and use 
marijuana. That's not typical for most controlled substances.

Under the proposed law, all applications for a medical license must 
be signed by an Oklahoma board-certified physician using "the 
accepted standards a reasonable and prudent physician would follow 
when recommending or approving any medication."

That sounds like a safeguard, until one recalls Oklahoma's existing 
problem with "pill mill" doctors who hand out opioids like candy. 
Similar abuses appear likely with medical marijuana, especially when 
you consider that the proposed law mandates "no qualifying 
conditions" are required for a marijuana prescription. In other 
words, someone claiming to have a headache could technically qualify.

Then there's the cost of the license. For most Oklahomans, a 
marijuana license would cost $100. But for those on Medicaid, the 
cost would be $20. So the proposal would charge low-income citizens 
less to smoke dope than others.

Marijuana retailers and commercial growers would be required to 
provide monthly reports on production and sales. However, those 
businesses would face penalties only if those reports highlight a 
"gross discrepancy" that "cannot be explained." What constitutes a 
"gross discrepancy" is left undefined, which opens the door for 
backdoor diversion of marijuana to purely recreational sales. For 
those concerned about property rights, another provision is 
especially alarming. The proposed law declares, "No school or 
landlord may refuse to enroll or lease to and may not otherwise 
penalize a person solely for his status as a medical marijuana 
license holder," unless the landowner would be penalized under 
federal law or regulations.

In short, property owners could not refuse to rent an apartment or 
house to someone who smokes "medical" marijuana, or they would face 
the threat of lawsuit.

Yet as the site notes, "smokers are not a protected 
class under federal or state law," which means "it is not illegal for 
you to refuse smoking tenants" to keep a rental property 100 percent 
smoke free.

Thus, under SQ 788, those who smoke tobacco wouldn't be a protected 
class, but those who smoke marijuana would be. Landlords could be 
penalized for trying to preserve the value of their property by 
keeping it smoke free and by refusing tenants whose drug use could 
lead to other problems.

And the language regarding schools appears so broad it could apply to 
private schools and colleges, exposing them to lawsuits regarding 
admission or expulsion of "licensed" students who use marijuana.

SQ 788 proponents portray their proposal as an effort to alleviate 
the suffering of cancer patients. A closer look suggests the actual 
outcomes will be far broader, and far less beneficial to Oklahoma.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom