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Oklahoma woman won't give up trying to reform state's marijuana laws

Norma Sapp, director of the Oklahoma branch of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, says Oklahoma's laws on marijuana hurts families.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: October 14, 2013 at 1:00 pm •  Published: October 13, 2013

Oklahoma boasts many lasts in the realm of liquor legislation — one of the last states to legalize liquor by the drink, and the second-to-last state to repeal Prohibition, only in front of Mississippi. And the state is one of the few to still sell low-point beer.

Will Oklahoma be among the last to legalize or decriminalize marijuana?

Sapp hopes not and argues a recent poll shows Oklahoma public opinion about pot is changing.

Public opinion

Oklahoma NORML recently paid Sooner Poll, an Oklahoma public polling company, to ask a series of marijuana-related questions to residents throughout the state.

About 64 percent of the people polled said people arrested for a marijuana offense should be treated for drug abuse, rather than jailed.

About 47 percent of the people polled said they strongly supported Oklahoma allowing “seriously ill patients to possess marijuana for medical purposes with a physician's recommendation.” Another 24 percent said they somewhat supported the notion.

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

One of the more surprising results for Sapp was the support of medical marijuana from evangelical Christians who were polled.

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.

Sapp said the cultural shift is becoming more obvious, even in Oklahoma.

“I don't want to see my kids, grandkids or great grandkids ever arrested for pot, for a plant that God put on this planet, and I want to be able utilize the agricultural benefits of hemp,” she said. “That's big.”

Over the past 11 years, Sapp has slowed down. Her husband of 22 years, Steven Sapp, died in 2002 of a heart attack. He was 50.

Since her husband's death, she has retired. Sapp spends time on her farm near Little Axe with her animals — among them, Angel, a brown and black dog that came in off the road and adopted Sapp, another dog, a few cats and some horses that pasture behind her house.

She farmed for a while, growing organic cantaloupe, okra and a long list of other fruits and vegetables. She now just grows food for herself.

She continues to help with local elections and has since 1988.

“You know the three little old ladies that take your (voter ID) cards? I'm the one who has to take the bookwork back to the election board,” Sapp said.

And Sapp still continues her trek to the Capitol because, as she puts it, the state's “tough-on-crime” stance is breaking up families.

Oklahoma has long ranked No. 1 in female incarceration and usually in the top five for incarcerating men.

“If you positively affect a woman, you positively affect the next three generations,” Sapp said. “And we have done totally the opposite. Those poor kids that have gotten separated from their mothers and put into foster care … That's what motivates me, the injustices.”

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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We've ruined the next generation and the next generation by taking mothers away from their children.”

Norma Sapp,

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