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New Oklahoma law to expand medical marijuana access

The medical marijuana movement is succeeding in all parts of the United States. Conservative, liberal and swing states are embracing the herb in various ways, and now the deep red state of Oklahoma is to expand its cannabis oil program.

Oklahoma’s new marijuana-progressive law

The old Oklahoma law only permitted the use of marijuana oil for treating under-18 year olds with epileptic seizures. The new adjustment to HB 2835 lifts the age restriction, and opens up cannabis oil to patients with muscle spasms due to paraplegia and multiple sclerosis, as well as for chronic wasting disease symptoms. Compared to other medical marijuana states, Oklahoma is still lagging behind, but it’s a welcome move in the right direction.

Oklahoma’s House of Representatives approved the modification by a 69-14 to margin, and now it’s up to Governor Mary Fallin to sign the bill into law. Fallin has gone on record opposing total legalization of medical marijuana, but did sign legislation allowing CBD to be administered to sick children.

However, the new law is not without its problem. Production and distribution remains restricted in Oklahoma, with no legal framework to advance it in the near future. Currently, patients and families must risk flouting federal border law by bringing CBD oil in from other states or try to access it via one of the CBD studies ongoing in the state.

A small, but important victory for Oklahoman cannabis activists

For states like Colorado and Oregon, a simple CBD oil law would count for next to nothing. However, Oklahoma has historically been sceptical of marijuana and even attempted, in conjunction with Nebraska, to sue Colorado over recreational cannabis crossing into the state. That considered, to show acceptance of non-psychoactive marijuana medication is marked progress.

This gives Oklahoma patients a foothold to push for more comprehensive marijuana reform in the coming months and year. Legislators across the country seem to be increasingly willing to listen to citizens pro-medical cannabis arguments. If Oklahoma’s CBD legislation proves beneficial to those it’s intended for, pressure to make marijuana products available for other ailments will grow.

HB 2154, commonly called Katie and Cayman’s Law, was authored by Rep. John Echols and Sen. Brian Crain and passed in 2015. Governor Fallin claimed that it would ensure cannabis research in Oklahoma for medical purposes was conducted in a “responsible and scientific way.” She noted how the bill would permit “tightly controlled medical studies” and that the medicine could be “life-changing” for children.

Senator Crain commented that all other methods to handle severe epileptic seizures in children had failed, and that Oklahoma must make good of the “unique opportunity” to realize the mighty, psychoactive-free possibilities of marijuana. Indeed, it’s a chance to replace the negative “stoner” image that the masses see with a serious, medically transformative one.

Building on the momentum

While delighted with the legal advance, marijuana activists in Oklahoma want to keep up the pressure at grassroots level. Oklahomans for Health is already leading the charge to make full medical cannabis a reality in the state, promoting a petition. The organization has several big backers in the medical and legal professions, as well as Joe Dorman, a former state representative who also ran for governor in Oklahoma.

Dorman summed it up perfectly, saying, “Somebody’s got to do something.” The former politician called for Oklahomans – especially politicians – to be courageous and make the right decisions in the interest of the public.

This is the third petition in Oklahoma since 2014 that has attempted to take the medical marijuana debate onto a ballot for the public to decide. Oklahomans for Health and Green the Vote have had one previous failed attempt each.

But this petition has more promise than the last two, with the most recent CBD oil expansion providing much-needed momentum. Oklahomans for Health co-chairman, Frank Grove, opined on why this latest petition is the most viable so far.

“It’s a referendum instead of a petition initiative for the constitutional amendment,” he said.

For the petition to be successful more than 65,000 valid signatures are required – factoring in the typical error rate of petitions, a figure closer to 85,000 is the true target for organizers. However, they believe it’s a very reachable target, with the petition set to launch this May.

Marijuana: the state of the union

A total of 24 states plus Washington D.C. have brought in legislation permitting medical marijuana usage. In four states and D.C., marijuana can be used with as much freedom as alcohol. Many more states have medical marijuana laws allowing products with THC to be used, while more apprehensive newcomers have so far stuck to ‘CBD-only’ laws with restricted product availability. This results in 47 states having some form of medical marijuana legislation.

Governor Fallin signed HB 2479 in April 2016, a bill which reduces the sentence given to second-time convicts for marijuana possession by 50 percent. This change is scheduled for November 1, 2016.

Do you live in Oklahoma? What do you think about the plans for a more complete medical marijuana program? Let us know in the comments.

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