OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A Senate committee on Monday defeated a proposal to legalize the medical use of marijuana in Oklahoma, but the bill's author said she considers it a victory that the measure was even granted a legislative hearing.
Members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 6-2 against the measure in a party-line vote with Republicans in opposition.
"I consider it a victory for the citizens of this state," said Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, who has introduced several bills over the last six years to allow for the medical use of marijuana or ease the penalties for possession of the drug. "I think it's a step in the right direction in terms of moving it forward and getting some indication of what people's reservations are so we'll know what to address."
The bill would have allowed a qualified patient or designated caregiver to possess up to 8 ounces of dried marijuana and 12 plants.
Among those who testified before the committee was Mike Evans of Oklahoma City, who said he is prescribed Marinol, a synthetic version of marijuana, to treat his Crohn's disease. He said without health insurance the prescription costs him $850 each month.
"Why can't I have the all-natural version that doesn't cost nearly as much?" Evans said.
Sen. Dan Newberry, who voted against the bill, expressed concern that allowing medical use of marijuana could lead to its abuse by recreational users who take advantage of the law.
"You know you are authorizing people to grow marijuana in their backyards ... even for something as slight as a migraine?" asked Newberry, R-Tulsa.
Sen. Brian Crain, chairman of the committee, said that while he personally opposed the idea, he agreed to hear the bill because of Johnson's persistence.
"I'm doing this more in consideration of the work Sen. Johnson has put into this issue," said Crain, R-Tulsa.
Under Senate rules, the bill or any similar measure on medicinal marijuana cannot be introduced in the Senate for the next two years.
Senate Bill 710: http://bit.ly/X9C0bQ