A measure that would have helped ease the pain and suffering of thousands of Oklahomans by providing them access to alternative medicine was killed Monday in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Senate Bill 710 would have legalized the use of medical marijuana prescribed by a doctor in the state. The bill’s author, Sen. Constance N. Johnson has been advocating for this issue for the past seven years and was pleased that it was finally given a hearing by the committee.
“Getting a hearing on this issue was a victory in itself. Like so many controversial issues throughout history, it takes many legislators a long time to see the positive benefits of certain measures like Senate Bill 710,” said Johnson, D-Oklahoma County. “Now we can further develop the game plan by which to continue advocacy and education on this issue.”
The bill failed 2-5 with only Johnson and Sen. Jabar Shumate, the only other Democrat on the committee, supporting the bill. Johnson said, based on her colleagues questions, that she feels they are missing the purpose of the bill and seem to only be able to focus on the misconception that SB 710 will lead to increased illegal marijuana use, which is not possible given that all cultivators would be licensed and regulated by the federal Department of Agriculture as well as the state Department of Health, and patients would have to have a prescription from a medical doctor.
“I’ve heard many personal accounts from patients around the state about how medical marijuana can help terminally ill cancer patients, people suffering from PTSD, or children with autism when nothing else helps. I hope my colleagues on the committee will take the time to go see and talk to these individuals – their constituents -- as well and get a better appreciation of the big picture. Hopefully, they will then see this bill as a way to help people, and not as something that only leads to increased illegal use of marijuana.”
The state Department of Health would be authorized to issue licenses to qualified patients and other cultivators as well as create rules pertaining to fees, licensing procedures, etc., while the Department of Agriculture would be tasked with ensuring standards on the quality of medicinal marijuana.
“With Senate Bill 710, the goal is simply to give Oklahomans who are suffering with debilitating diseases and their doctors the right to decide what the best approach is to easing their suffering. Present options such as oxycotin and other pharmaceutical options are at best ineffective and at worst deadly,” said Johnson. “As the Legislature, our efforts should be aimed at ensuring access to effective medicine to keep people from further suffering. To do otherwise is inhumane and heartbreaking.”