Backers of medical marijuana kick off initiative campaign with Oklahoma Capitol rally Wednesday

Proposed ballot measure would make marijuana legal for 37 medical ailments
by Rick Green Published: May 29, 2014
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photo - Chip Paul, chairman Oklahomans for Health, speaks with the media during a medical marijuana rally at the State Capitol on May 28, 2014 in Oklahoma City, Okla. This is formal launch of a signature drive to get a medical marijuana measure on a statewide ballot.  (AP PHOTO/The Oklahoman, Steve Sisney)
Chip Paul, chairman Oklahomans for Health, speaks with the media during a medical marijuana rally at the State Capitol on May 28, 2014 in Oklahoma City, Okla. This is formal launch of a signature drive to get a medical marijuana measure on a statewide ballot. (AP PHOTO/The Oklahoman, Steve Sisney)

A group in favor of legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes kicked off a petition drive Wednesday aimed at putting the issue before voters in the November statewide election.

“I’m here to say I believe Oklahomans have a strong sense of personal liberty and personal freedom, and that’s what I want to appeal to,” Chip Paul, chairman of Oklahomans for Health told about 50 people at a rally outside the state Capitol. “There’s thousands of Oklahomans who suffer every day with conditions which could be treated with medical marijuana, but they’re not allowed to, they can’t, because it’s not available as a medicine, or they commit a felony by going out and treating their illness with a valid medicine.”

The group must gather signatures from more than 155,000 registered Oklahoma voters by Aug. 16 to have the measure placed on the ballot.

The proposed constitutional amendment would allow Oklahoma residents older than 18 to obtain a license to legally buy marijuana if a physician certifies the person has one of 37 qualifying medical conditions ranging from insomnia to cancer. It would set up a licensing procedure for the sale of marijuana. It also would set a maximum $400 fine for those with up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana who say they have a qualifying medical condition but don’t have a license to have the substance.

State Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Forest Park, told those at the rally marijuana can be helpful as a medicine, and existing criminal penalties for its use are too harsh and end up harming families and communities.

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by Rick Green
Capitol Bureau Chief
Rick Green is the Capitol Bureau Chief of The Oklahoman. A graduate of Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., he worked as news editor for The Associated Press in Oklahoma City before joining The Oklahoman.
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