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Oklahoma evangelical Christians among supporters of medical marijuana

by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: September 24, 2013

The topic of medical marijuana or decriminalizing marijuana hasn’t garnered much attention at the state Legislature.

Courtesy of the Baltimore Sun

Sen. Connie Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, has written legislation attempting to change Oklahoma’s marijuana laws, but the bills didn’t get too far at the Capitol.

Johnson recently requested an interim study on “the status of policies in Oklahoma regarding marijuana use, possession and punishment.”

That interim study request motivated Norma Sapp, the state director of Oklahoma NORML, to do some research. During our recent interview, Sapp told me that Oklahoma NORML, a legalization advocacy group, wanted to find out who would support various marijuana law changes.

To gather dataOklahoma NORML used donations from supporters to pay Sooner Poll to ask Oklahoma residents about their feelings on marijuana.

Sooner Poll posted their findings this week::

According to latest SoonerPoll results, Oklahomans are ready to consider marijuana for medicinal purposes and decriminalization. The poll had support for medical marijuana at 71% and support for decriminalization at 57%. The poll did not ask about legalization.

When considering arrest for a marijuana offense, nearly two-thirds of respondents (64%) said they should be treated instead of jailed.  Under current Oklahoma law, possession of any amount can earn one up to a year in jail for a first offense and from two to 10 years for a second offense. Marijuana sales—of any amount—can earn a sentence of up to life in prison.

The state’s largest cities were the most in support.  In metro Oklahoma City and Tulsa, support for medical marijuana was higher than 75%, and support for decriminalization was at 67% in Tulsa and at 63% in Oklahoma City.

Here are the specific questions that Sooner Poll asked, and the results from each question:

Question: Fifteen states in America have decriminalized the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for adult possession, meaning they would receive a fine rather than be criminally prosecuted and face possible incarceration. Do you support or oppose Oklahoma joining these other fifteen states?

  • Strongly support: 139 people polled, 34.5 percent
  • Somewhat support: 91 people, 12.6 percent
  • Neutral/no opinion/don’t know/refused: 17 people, 4.1 percent
  • Somewhat oppose: 34 people; 8.4 percent
  • Strongly oppose: 122 people, 30.3 percent

Question: Should Oklahoma treat marijuana use as a public health concern, meaning send them to treatment, instead of making it a criminal justice matter?

  • Treatment: 257 people, 63.7 percent
  • Criminal justice matter: 111 people, 27.4 percent
  • Don’t know/refused: 36 people, 8.8 percent

Question: Twenty states now have laws allowing seriously ill patients to possess marijuana for medical purposes with a physician’s recommendation. Do you support or oppose Oklahoma joining these other twenty states?

  • Strongly support: 191 people, 47.4 percent
  • Somewhat support: 96 people; 23.8 percent
  • Neutral/no opinion/don’t know/refused: 11 people, 2.7 percent
  • Somewhat oppose: 31 people; 7.8 percent
  • Strongly oppose: 74 people, 18.3 percent

Question: Do you think laws regarding whether the use of marijuana is legal or not should be determined by the federal government, or left to each individual state government to decide?

  • Determined by the federal government: 68 people, 16.8 percent
  • Determined by the state government: 329 people, 81.6 percent
  • Don’t know/refused: Six people, 1.6 percent

More specific information

Sooner Poll also collected information about the people they polled, including age, church attendance and political party.

For example, about 34 percent of residents who were polled who identify as “evangelical Christians” said they “strongly support” allowing seriously ill patients to use marijuana for “medical purposes with a physician’s recommendation.” Another 26 percent of evangelical Christians said they “somewhat support” the notion. When you combine that, 60 percent of evangelical Christians in Oklahoma polled are saying they support some version of legal medical marijuana use for people who are really sick.

Also, the majority of every age category polled supported treating marijuana as a “public health concern,” meaning sending people to treatment, rather than sending them to jail or prison. Support for treatment ranged from 61 percent of people 65 and older to about 71 percent of people 35 to 44.

However, not every age category agreed on decriminalization. About 49 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds were supportive of decriminalization the possession of up to one ounce, as were about 49 percent of 55- to 64-year-olds. And about 48 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds said they would support decriminalizing that amount. But there were dips in support from the 35-44 age group (36.3 percent), 45-54 age group (32.9 percent) and residents 65 and older (24.2 percent).

P.S. Here’s a description of Sooner Poll’s methodology.

 


by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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