Story by Hollye Carroll
Photo by Bailey Walker
Oklahomans voted 56 percent in favor of State Question 788 that legalized medical marijuana in Oklahoma and allowed citizens, with a board-certified physician’s signature, to obtain a state-issued medical marijuana license during the primary election June 26. After multiple revisions, on Aug. 6, Gov. Mary Fallin signed the updated version of SQ 788 into law. This barred the need for a board-certified physician on site at each dispensary, prerequisite pregnancy tests for women of childbearing age to obtain a physician’s note and allowing the sale and purchase of smokable marijuana. SQ 788 states that the law will take effect in 30 days and licenses must be available within 90 days. At that point, Oklahoma will join 29 other states who have legalized medical marijuana.
There was an overwhelming amount of support for SQ 788, especially from residents who are currently unable to find treatment in Oklahoma for their chronic pain.
Adam Kreloff, 28, of Oklahoma City has suffered from chronic scoliosis pain since the age of 13. He said his only options are opiates that make him violently ill, making him unable to function in his day-to-day life.
“They make me literally sick to my stomach and the thought of being physically addicted [to opiates] scares me,” Kreloff said. “Honestly, if I’m strung out before age 30, my future looks very bleak.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017 there were more than 72,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States. Government statistics show that from 2015-2017 overdose deaths were up nearly 50 percent, and an average of 136 deaths per day are from opioid overdoses.
Barbara, who prefers to exclude her last name for privacy, is the co-owner of Bud Hut, Inc. in Walsenburg, Colorado. She has experienced first-hand how marijuana can help those who are currently addicted to opiates.
“We’ve had a ton of clients who have come in and specifically said they want to get off opiates,” she said. “If they’re ready to commit, because it’s not easy, we recommend different strains as well as tinctures and topicals to find out what works for them because each individual is different. Once you find out your own body’s pharmacology, the possibilities are endless.”
Kreloff spoke about his time in Seattle where the so-called budtenders recommended edible, topical and sublingual products that helped with his chronic pain.
“Topical ointments help a lot. The best one is a tincture and I can put a few drops under my tongue or in any drink,” he said. “I put it in my morning coffee and that combined with a 5 mg edible was the most effective thing I’ve ever taken for my pain. It helps more than any pill I’ve taken and I’m actually able to function because I don’t feel high.”
Many opponents of SQ 788 think legalizing medical marijuana will only encourage drug use, particularly among young people. Barbara spoke about how she was surprised by the clientele when they opened their dispensary.
“It’s not college kids smoking pot; they’re not our demographic,” she said. “The ones consuming medically and recreationally are responsible adults. Our average client is well into their 40s and 50s. We treat a lot of terminally ill patients as well.”
There are potential drawbacks to cannabis legalization, according to a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. In 2016, Colorado saw the average rate of cannabis-related hospital visits among children increase from 1.2 per 100,000 to 2.3 per 100,000. A study published in American Journal for Public Health in 2016 outlined the need for “a robust regulatory and public health framework,” and “Because of the lack of a federal infrastructure for regulating marijuana, state health departments often find themselves in new roles with little resources or support,” so predictive and swift policy must be passed to handle the transition smoothly. Additionally, thorough research on whether cannabis may be used as a replacement for more harmful drugs or as a companion has yet to be conducted. Oklahoma policy makers will be forced to plan ahead or adapt in real time to the new policy.
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