Oklahoma, one of the reddest and most conservative states in the U.S., voted Tuesday to legalize marijuana for medical purposes, adopting some of the most liberal weed laws in the union.
Voters approved State Question 788 by 56.8 percent, despite a concerted effort against the bill by law enforcement, religious groups, and the business community.
The decision, which makes Oklahoma the 30th state to legalize and regulate medical weed, allows those given a two-year license to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana, six mature plants, and six seedlings, as well as edibles and concentrated forms of the drug.
Controversially, Oklahoma’s law allows doctors to use discretion in prescribing the drug to any patient they think will benefit from it, unlike most other states, where the substance is only available to those suffering from a set list of ailments.
It was the lack of such a prescribed list that sparked a backlash from the law enforcement community and a last-ditch $500,000 advertising blitz by an opposition group to try to derail the vote.
Ultimately, however, those efforts failed.
“Public support for medical marijuana access is nonpartisan,” Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said in a statement. “Even in a predominantly ‘red’ state like Oklahoma, it is the will of the voters to enact commonsense yet significant marijuana law reforms.”
National polls show a growing majority of American voters want legalization, and Democrats are eager to capitalize. In April, the Senate’s highest-ranking Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer, reversed his position on marijuana and introduced legislation to legalize the drug on the federal level.
Yet most Republicans remain staunchly opposed to legalization, and Oklahoma’s Republican Gov. Mary Fallin hit out at the new law Tuesday, saying it essentially legalizes marijuana use for all.
“I believe this new law is written so loosely that it opens the door for basically recreational marijuana,” Fallin said in a statement. “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.”
Oklahoma was the first state to vote on a marijuana question in 2018, with Utah and Michigan scheduled to hold similar ballots later this year.
Many Democrats are calling for marijuana to be removed from the controlled substances list, which would also allow states to fully legalize marijuana if they choose.
After such a conservative state passed such progressive legislation, Republicans will likely come under renewed pressure “to take action to end this existing state/federal conflict,” according to Armentano.
“It is time for members to move forward with legislation like The States Act or The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which would allow states the flexibility and autonomy to regulate cannabis as best they see fit — free from the looming threat of undue federal intervention,” he added.
Cover image: Cannabis plants grow in the greenhouse at Vireo Health's medical marijuana cultivation facility, August 19, 2016 in Johnstown, New York. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)