- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Oklahomans voted Tuesday to make the Sooner State the 30th in the nation to legalize medical marijuana, putting patients on a path to start legally growing, using, buying and selling the plant.

About 57 percent of voters cast ballots during Tuesday’s election in support of State Question 788, a measure allowing the use, sale and harvesting of medical marijuana in Oklahoma, in turn giving cannabis legalization advocates their first major win of 2018.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health said Wednesday that efforts are underway to launch the medical marijuana permitting process as soon as next month.

“The Oklahoma State Department of Health has worked for the past three months to develop a framework for implementing the requirements of SQ 788. Now that Oklahoma voters have approved the measure, OSDH is confident that we are ready to meet those requirements by the specified time and that the process will be handled with integrity,” the agency said in a statement.

Health officials will consider emergency rules governing the medical marijuana program at their next meeting July 10, the statement said. Application information will become available July 26, and the agency will begin accepting paperwork from patients a month later, according to the statement.

“It may take some time to fully implement all of the steps recommended in preparation for this new program, but we will continue to work to meet the letter of the law and to protect the health and safety of all Oklahomans,” the statement read.

Oklahomans passed the measure in spite of concerns raised by critics including Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican who said she it warrants revisions by state legislatures since it would let doctors recommend the plant to patients for any medical condition without limitation.

“I respect the will of the voters in any question placed before them to determine the direction of our state. It is our responsibility as state leaders to look out for the health and safety of Oklahoma citizens,” Ms. Fallin said following the vote.

“As I mentioned in previous public comments, I believe, as well as many Oklahomans, this new law is written so loosely that it opens the door for basically recreational marijuana,” she added. “I will be discussing with legislative leaders and state agencies our options going forward on how best to proceed with adding a medical and proper regulatory framework to make sure marijuana use is truly for valid medical illnesses.”

Twenty-nine states and D.C. currently have medical marijuana laws in place, and nine and the nation’s capital have passed laws legalizing the plant for recreational purposes, including six where it can be bought and sold at retail dispensaries.

The Oklahoma measure as passed by voters will let the Health Department issue seller, grower, packaging, transportation, research and caregiver licenses to applicants. A seven percent sales tax will be also be imposed on medical marijuana sold to patients at licensed businesses, according to its current language.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law, though President Trump recently said he would probably support proposed legislation protecting states that permit the plant.

Michigan and Utah, meanwhile, are slated to vote in November on legalizing recreational and medical marijuana, respectively.

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