Story by Kaitlyn Burden
Photo by Julie Archer
Vice President of Student Affairs Lance Newbold gives students a look into his life and experiences as a member of the Rose State family. Newbold started in 2012 in Academic Advisement and was promoted to Vice President of Student Affairs in January 2017.
As a military man, Lt. Col. Newbold served in the US Army from 1992-2007. Before becoming Vice President, he served as the Director of Veteran Services and the Director of Academic Advisement. With this type of background, he is notorious for always being at least 10 minutes early.
He is also active in the President’s Leadership program on campus and is a leadership adviser to many students.
“Lance is the rock of leadership that everyone needs in their life. His passion and drive is also what inspires others,” said Greyson Wolf, leadership student.
Newbold attends numerous events and functions that often keeps him with a busy schedule. The impact he had on students earned him the staff appreciation award at the 2017 Student Life banquet.
“Vice President Newbold is an excellent leader that shows great care with both students and staff. He pushes us to strive for excellence and leads with great passion,” said Student Conduct Officer Erin Logan.
Newbold strives to be a positive example for students.
“The one thing that I hope that I do every day is treat everyone fairly. I think integrity is very important. Dealing with everyone the way I would want them to deal with me,” Newbold said. “A lot of times, students look and think that their professors and college administrators are unapproachable. That’s not the case at Rose State. We are all here because we want to help students.”
While he has a direct impact on students, his co-workers also admire him.
“Vice President Newbold is a very supportive leader. He also trusts that he has good people to their job and so he makes them feel comfortable in being able to do that,” said Alicia McCullar, Director of Student Engagement. “As he has transitioned, it’s so fun for him to embrace change. For instance, when he was first asked to take a selfie, he made a grumpy cat face. Instead of continuing down the grumpy cat lane, he embraced it all.”
As a word of advice, Newbold offered up his insights to being a successful student.
“Go to class. My advice is always Go. To. Class,” he said.
Story & Photo by Bailey Walker
Two years off the heels of the largest prison strike in United States history, inmates and advocacy groups have been organizing under threat of solitary confinement and other penalties. Work stoppages, sit-ins, hunger strikes and boycotts will make up a nationwide prison strike for Aug. 2018 to end what labor advocates call modern slavery. The use of sub-minimum wage labor encourages incarceration to sustain this labor force, advocates say. The prisoner advocacy group Jailhouse Lawyers Speak published a press release outlining demands and tactics for the strike.
“The strike demands were completely developed by prisoners,” said Amani Sawari, organization coordinator. “The organizing network began in South Carolina with Lee County but spread quickly to involve participants all across the country. Prisoners are taking the lead in establishing local demands.”
Sawari explained that prisoners focus on specific issues pertaining to their state, Washingtonians are focused on state divestment, while the Carolinas focus on voting rights. Whatever the main focus, the pushes in each area embody some part of the strike demands.
Sawari believes there is a kind of domino effect that occurs when regions focus on unique problems and win, “Regions are targeted with specifics, a win in one region is a win nationwide because as we begin to see barriers to prisoners involvement in the political process break down regionally we know we’ll see an overall improvement in the way that prisoners are treated and the circumstances of their environment nationwide.”
An air of intersectionality, solidarity between discriminated people, permeates the list of demands; the use of the word “human” over manwoman highlights inclusion of non-binary people who may not be either a man or woman, a focus on “black and brown” people and systemic racism and strengthening rehabilitation services for the neurodivergent (those with atypical neurcognitive function.) This element of inclusion and solidarity has allowed it to garner support among many human rights and leftist groups. This movement derives its core ideal from a desire to raise standard of living for all inmates across the country and one of the fundamental points of friction between the current system and this movement is the practice of what the activists call slavery.
The 13th Amendment was one of the first civil rights overhauls in American history. The measure was to be a means of following through on the Emancipation Proclamation and to act as the foundation of Reconstruction after the socioeconomic ramifications of the war. Both the North and South widely and violently rejected social reconstruction reforms and took advantage of many holes in the coverage of the law. Aside from practices such as redlining, job discrimination and other Jim Crow practices, vagrancy laws worked in tandem with the 13th Amendment.
The amendment reads “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The nationalization of this practice is a well-known ‘loophole’ written about in many law journals. The state now holds a total, constitutional monopoly over “Slavery [and] involuntary servitude” due to the state being the entity that decides whether a party is “duly convicted” of a crime.
Inmates are demanding improved working conditions and an end to the practice they know as contemporary slavery. Depending on the work program an incarcerated person is in, they can expect to make between 14-63 cents per day. This wage largely includes maintenance work around the facility. If an inmate takes part in programs that partner with private businesses or government agencies that purchase prison-produced products, in other words programs that produce profit, the inmate can make 33 cents to $1.41. Some of the highest earners make around a dollar an hour, and those are inmates who are actively fighting fires in 24-hour shifts in California; when not actively firefighting, they receive $2 per day.
These low wages do not keep rate with what many states have implemented: pay-to-stay policies, which charge inmates a fee for the time they spend in the facility. In 2013, Prison Legal news reported Riverside County, California charges prisoners $142.42 per day in boarding fees. Using an incarcerated California firefighter wage, it would take around six straight days of active wildfire fighting to pay for one day of residence. Though boarding fees are significantly lower than that around the nation, they still more often than not don’t come close to being payable with a prison wage. This gap means most people who leave incarceration are saddled with debt, and if they’re felons, barred from a wide swath of employment as well. Those not leaving with debt have simply outsourced it, as friends and family members are often the ones supporting inmates.
The National Prison Strike runs Aug. 21 to Sept. 9. This labor movement, organized by incarcerated people, for incarcerated people, is by its very nature illegal. Each one of these acts is punishable by at least six months in solitary confinement: “possession of anything not authorized for retention or receipt by the inmate and not issued to [them] through regular channels (smuggling cell phones is integral to organizing, especially on a nationwide scale), refusing to work or to accept a program assignment, unexcused absence from work or any program assignment or failing to perform work as instructed by the supervisor.” Not to mention, the possibility of a litany of “rioting” charges for collective organizing; those of which start at an 18-month minimum isolation period.
Sawari urges organizers to stage protests and events in order to satisfy one goal: “Have everyone’s eyes on their local prison to witness prisoners action during the strike time Aug. 21- Sept. 9.”
For more information or to follow the strike, check out incarceratedworkers.org, sawarimi.org or follow @JailLawSpeak on Twitter.
Story by Payton Hayes | Photos by Emily Siddiqui
Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center encourages artistic expression in all its forms through education, exhibitions, and performance and endeavors to instill in the public a lifetime appreciation of the arts and enthusiasm for creative practice. The Art Center formed in 1989 and is running strong today, with art shows and events that help connect aspiring artists and established artists alike with their community.
The opening of the 2018 Rose State College picture show was on exhibit May 3-13 at the Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center by the State Fairgrounds. Oklahoma Contemporary worked with students in Rose State College’s art history program to curate an exhibition of photos sourced from their communities to be viewed in the galleries in May.
Through this exhibit, Oklahoma Contemporary introduced the students to the process of curating an exhibition and encouraged them to consider a career in the arts and connect with communities outside of Oklahoma City, which may be underserved by the arts.
Art Professor Suzanne Thomas gave students a look into why curating and submitting for art shows can be so important.
“For me this was an opportunity for students at this academic level a chance to be in charge," Thomas said.
Aspiring artists and established artists alike, face rejection when submitting artwork for shows as there are only so many pieces that can be chosen for the exhibit and it can be subjective.
"Some of the art history students will want to pursue a career as an artist, which means that they will submit artwork for shows. It also means that they will experience a lot of rejection. This can be very discouraging,” Thomas said. “So when that happens - I hope they remember how hard it is to pick work for a show. It is not an easy process. By putting themselves as the ones who has to make those decisions, they hopefully will begin to understand that rejection is not personal.”
Roughly 80 pieces were on display for the artists and their community for the exhibit. Most were created by students but about 15 were professional submissions. A couple of students, Caitlin Rodriguez, an artist, and Emily Stover, a curator for the show, took pictures with their work and answered as few questions to give insight into the experience they had at the opening of the event.
“The art show was about community and the ways we see our community coming together at an event, etc.," Rodriguez said. "When I went to the Picture Show there were many pictures of people coming together and accomplishing something that they probably couldn't by themselves. It really symbolized what a true community stands for.”
Art shows can help to bring the community closer, not only to experience and appreciate local artwork, but to support the artists and learn more about what kind of art is being created in Oklahoma.
“I saw how much work was put into one show and it was a lot. I'm really proud of all who participated in the making of this show,” Rodriguez said.
Stover also served as project lead for the art show. She said there is a lot that goes into organizing an art show.
“Starting from identifying the theme of the show, then selecting artists to submit work, then comes the choosing of the work (usually juried). Then there is framing and mating to consider, then the layout of the gallery space," Stover said. "Once the layout is decided, labels must be made to identify the pieces, then you hang the work, and show it. After the show has run its designated length of time, comes the de-installation and return of the art work.”
There were several well-known local professional artists participated in the art show, including Nathan Poppe, Kate Luber and Brett Deering, along with out of state artist, Ivan McClellan. Rose State College: Images of The Community allowed Rose State students who are aspiring artists to build connections with established and professional artists.
Story by Haley Humphrey & Katie Duer
Photo courtesy of Bill Richards
The Business building is quiet upon entry in the evening hours, except in one area. The low hum of a projector mixes with voices discussing technology far past the typical brain knowledge of most humans. The Cyber Security Club convened in Room 101. The small group of members was brainstorming their next move--meticulously deliberating over how to make this year’s high-altitude balloon better than the one launched last year.
A high-altitude balloon is similar to a radiosonde used by meteorologists, which measures weather elements, such as: Pressure, temperature and relative humidity. The high-altitude balloon, which the Cyber Security program has funded since December 2017 measures air pressure, humidity, altitude (latitude and longitude) and location. Some may be thinking: Why is the STEM Center, which is home to meteorology majors, not orchestrating this project? While the Cyber Security Club has reached out to professors like Steve Carano, they are interested in going outside of their normal surroundings. Most would not picture this technological club coordinating a project that has a significant relationship with weather. But they did it last year, and they are back for more results.
Russell Winburn, first-year Cyber Security major, was ecstatic to share the success of the first launch, despite not being involved last year. He is one of the club’s newest members. The club welcomes anyone, whether they are part of the cyber program or not. This year they have grown from seven to roughly 12 team members. February and March are the beginning stages of getting back in the groove of meetings; therefore, only a handful were present. However, that does not mean the members who show up late or cannot make the meetings are unable to participate. The club has a D2L page where the students can sign up and post discussions of new ideas.
During the March 1 meeting, five team members and the club’s adviser, Bill Richards, discussed materials needed and what they could recycle from last year. The idea that “better” does not always have to be “newer” is what many of the members identify with.
The deconstruction of the high-altitude balloon launched last year assembled like this:
Ethan Fowler, first-year Cyber Security major and Payload Coordinator, fidgeted with a Raspberry Pi 3 as he listened to Roy Baggett, Drone Leader, contemplate updating the sensors for ozone and radiation. There are no wrong moves in the spitball stages of this process; Fowler nodded in compliance of Baggett’s suggestion.
The 2017 launch took place May 13 at Choctaw Creek Park. The flight’s predictions, which were gathered from HabHub.org, informed the team that the balloon would land in Prague.
As Richards went through a PowerPoint of pictures from last year’s launch, the members smiled when a photo emerged on the screen of the team’s “pilot,” which was a tiny, plastic figurine Batman that stayed firmly in place the entire four-hour flight. Questions were raised as to what/who will be the new pilot, the new lucky charm for the team. A glimpse of the fun, nerdy side of the club members was evident.
The starting point and the chase to follow and retrieve the balloon will be like last year. There will be four vehicles and three people inside each, one being the driver, one in the passenger seat being the navigator and one in the back seat being the communicator. At least one person out of the group must have an amateur radio license to use an Automatic Packet Reporting System, which tells the team immediate and exact digital information in a local area.
Once last year’s balloon had deployed its parachute in an expansive field owned by a Prague farmer, the team asked his permission to reclaim their equipment and excitedly examined their finished product.
They simultaneously agreed they were lucky it did not land somewhere in a body of water or in a tree. Fingers are crossed that this year’s final location will be the same.
This year the Cyber Club has predetermined their launch date to be toward the end of May. Fowler is optimistic this year will show a stronger outcome since they are more prepared with issues that occurred last year, such as: Technical problems with the sensor computers, minor loss of communication with the FFA’s disconnection of their notice to airmen and mechanical hold-ups with a vehicle getting stuck in mud during the balloon chase.
“One big thing I hope to improve on from the last flight is student participation,” Fowler said.
Winburn agreed with Fowler, also hoping for more campus involvement.
“I want Rose State to prosper from [the launch],” said Winburn.
The Cyber Security program will be recognized throughout the community.
The 2018 launch window is set to occur May 26 at 10 a.m. The Cyber Club urged guests to become involved and be present at the launch. For more details, contact Richards at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Story & Photos by Bailey Bussell
With the spring semester coming to an end, there is no doubt most students have been going crazy over finals week. But among all the craziness that comes toward the end of the semester, there should always be a time to relax and take a breather from the everyday stress. So, what better way to take a break than to watch the old Student Center begin its demolition to create space for the new Student Union.
Rose State celebrated the beginning of the construction for the new Student Union Wednesday, May 9. The celebration kicked off with Rose State President Jeanie Webb. The event was open to the public, as students and faculty gathered around the west side of the student center to witness the demolition of the Student Center. The sledgehammer event not only included Webb, but also Chancellor Johnson, Chairman Majors and incoming Student Senate President Brianna Sanders.
The new Student Union will have two stories, with the upper floor to include a 400-seat ballroom and many conference rooms available to the community. The construction of the Student Union is set to begin in August after the old Student Center has been torn down over the summer. The expected finish date for the Student Union is set for the year 2020. So, for those who plan to attend RSC in the near future, be looking for the completion of the new Student Union.
Click here for more information about the new Student Union.
Story by Madi Zick
Photo by Haley Humphrey
As the school year comes to an end, plans for the next semester are already in route. The Student Senate held their elections for the new Exec Board April 18 and 19 that will serve for the 2018-19 school year. This board consists of the President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary. The people who ran for the these positions are Brianna Sanders and Heather Maker for President, Jakob Harmon for Vice President, Christine Keefe for Treasurer and Trevor Akers and Matthew Hayes for Secretary. Many people inquired why these elections are important and what should the students have looked for in a candidate.
Dillon Willis, a second-year member of the student senate, believes the student senate elections are important because the Exec Board can have tremendous impact on Rose State’s campus.. Willis advised to look for a candidate who is active across the campus community and who has a heart that is passionate about looking for new, positive changes.
Heather Maker, candidate for President, also thought it was important to vote for a representative who is kind, leads with his/her heart and listens to opinions on campus. When asked why Maker would like to serve as president, she explained that she wants students to get more involved and wants the little voice to be heard over the masses.
Trevor Akers ran for Secretary, he believes involvement on campus is exponentially important and he aspires to help Rose State as much as he can. He wanted to be the Secretary because he is passionate about maintaining involvement on campus and reaching out to all students to further positive engagement and the overall experience at the college.
Many also pondered why the students who chose to run and the senators who served in the student senate care. Former Treasurer Kaitlyn Burden explained that she “wants to know [she] left Rose State better than when [she] came.”
Voices do not have to be loud, to be heard. Search for new changes next semester and continually get to know your representatives.
The winning ballot was released April 20.
President Brianna Sanders
Vice President Jacob Harmon
Treasurer Heather Maker
Secretary Matthew Hayes
Story & Photos by JaNae Williams
Near-silence filled the room as observers stood by anxiously, the only sounds being gentle murmurs from hushed conversations, the rustling of papers and the soft footfalls of those organizing the drill. Yellow police tape cordoned off the area between spectators and those involved. A palpable tension hung in the air as the anticipation built.
Shortly after 8:30 a.m., yelling and simulated gunfire erupted from just inside the southern entrance of the Student Center as a Midwest City police officer, acting as a civilian gunman, entered a hallway filled with his targets. As the gunman made his way into the building he left behind him a trail of “victims,” played by Rose State students briefed prior to the exercise.
Kailey Kelpine, a sophomore business major, explained that each participant was given a victim card detailing their wounds and degree of injuries. The character she was set to portray was shot in the jaw, the bullet exiting through her right ear, leaving her unresponsive, but breathing. Kelpine added that the situation, though staged, felt real in the moment.
“Whenever he walked in, I didn't actually know that [the gunman] was who was yelling. I reacted how I actually would have in real life and so as soon as he pointed the gun at me … my heart started pounding really hard and it was really scary,” Kelpine said.
From the hallway, the shooter continued his path through the building, firing nearly a dozen rounds, injuring multiple victims, killing one and ultimately taking a hostage before barricading himself into a room on the north end of the Student Center. Almost immediately after the gunman barricaded himself into the room, the first wave of Midwest City Police entered in response to calls from dispatch regarding an active shooter.
Maj. Robert Cornelison of the Midwest City Police Department explained that there is a partnership and contract in place between Rose State and MWCPD, meaning there is an officer living in student housing and therefore on site at all times. Furthermore, during the school week, additional officers are on campus, allowing for very rapid response times in the case of an emergency situation.
Cornelison added that training scenarios like these are a part of regular bimonthly training for MWCPD and their SWAT team, providing valuable insights to the department, and that when they can specifically involve the campus there is also a lot of benefit to the student body, faculty and staff.
“It could happen anywhere. It’s going to happen again, it’s just a matter of where and so I think everybody is more prepared,” Cornelison said. “They’re more alert. They kind of know what to look for; they have an idea of how the police is going to respond.”
Watching on as the drill took place were a those tasked with overseeing the safety of the Rose State Campus, as well as the men and women who protect it. Elsewhere, the entire campus was placed on lockdown and building-by-building checks were being carried out to ensure compliance to Rose State’s protocols.
Dr. Jeanie Webb, President of Rose State, explained that the school goes through scenarios like the active shooter drill so that the campus is as secure as possible.
“We want to have real-life scenarios, because it’s different. But you know, the truth is [when] it happens, if something happened on any campus, any school, any department; it doesn’t matter where it is, people never react how they think they will and that’s why you want to have these practices,” Webb said.
Webb explained that this is the beginning of a series of trainings that will take place to ensure that faculty and staff are prepared for multiple possible scenarios. Rose State intends to work with each one of its departments to ensure that training is as up-to-date as possible.
“I think that we need training one hundred percent of the time, constantly, because it changes. With every incident we learn something,” Webb added.
Caleb Watkins, a sophomore general science major, participated in the drill and was given the task of being the only fatality. For Watkins, getting to be a part of the drill was an eye-opening experience.
“I always knew that [response times] were fairly fast from just hearing about it, but I’ve never actually experienced anything like it,” Watkins said. “It was pretty amazing to see how fast they all got on campus.”
Rose State uses a notification system to inform students of campus issues. This same system would be employed in the case of an active shooter, inclement weather or any other potential crisis the campus may face. Many of the student participants in the drill remarked that their phones were active during the experience and they received numerous communications from the college.
“Despite that I was [playing the role of] a casualty, my phone was going crazy with alerts and text messages, so I think that in any crisis … I would have been well-informed with the Rose alert system,” Watkins said.
Webb is aware that there will always be more to do, but thinks that through making preparedness a priority and with continued training in conjunction with local agencies, Rose State will do its part to ensure the safety of everyone who sets foot on the campus.
Story by Katie Duer
“The Disaster Next Door” Series is Rose State College’s Emergency Management speaker series, serving as a platform for experts to share their experiences from some of the most devastating disasters the state has seen. On Thursday, April 12, Albert Ashwood, director of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, discussed the Oklahoma City bombing and its effects on Oklahoma since its occurrence in 1995.
Ashwood began by asking the audience if they remember where they were in 1995 when the Murrah Federal Building was bombed. He discussed how much has changed and how different the culture was back then. Bill Clinton was president of the United States and Frank Keating was the Governor of Oklahoma. George Foreman Grills had just gained popularity and “Toy Story” was the top movie. Technology was very different as well; Ashford showed photographs of large bulky computers that used floppy disks and bag mobile phones as large as car batteries. These old photographs showed the skyline of Oklahoma City with no Devon tower, and also how vastly different Bricktown looked in 1995.
Ashwood then began to speak of the history of the Department of Emergency Management, also known as the state EOC. The Department of Emergency Management mission read as follows in 1995, and remains the same today: To minimize the effects of all disasters and emergencies upon the people of Oklahoma through mitigation, preparedness and recovery programs.
Ashwood then began to discuss the layout of the Murrah Federal building, describing which departments were on what floor on the day of the event.
On April 19, 1995, 168 lives were lost, 169 if you count an officer who took his own life; 514 people were injured; 30 children were left orphaned; and 219 children were left with one parent. The explosion damaged 312 buildings.
The facts of this incident were still very much unknown in those first few hours after the explosion. Ashwood described that upon his arrival to the scene, his first instinct was that the explosion had been caused by a gas leak. He explained that an act of terrorism had not even crossed his mind. He showed a map of the area surrounding the Murrah building, pointed out where triages and command posts were set up for the different responding teams and even where media was stationed.
The Oklahoma City bombing Memorial, designed by Bob Johnson and built where the Murrah Federal building once stood, stands to honor those impacted by the bombing.
“Bob Johnson … had a really hard job. He had the job of getting all of the families, the survivors, the victims’ families, the rescue workers all together and saying how do we want to memorialize this event,” Ashwood said about designing and creating The Oklahoma City bombing Memorial. “Let me tell you, nerves were raw.” The Memorial and museum still remains today to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those whose lives were changed forever.
The discussion lasted about an hour and a half and was very informative. Plenty of photos were displayed as well as tales of how emergency teams, officers of the law, local civilians and volunteers from all of the nation came together during the disaster. The live recording is available at https://www.facebook.com/RoseState/videos/2128668550483565/.
Story & Photos by Emily Siddiqui
Dozens of Rose State students, faculty and guests gathered to enjoy a special night of verse and conversation at the 30th annual Poetry at Rose, held at 7 p.m. Friday, March 30 at the H.B. Atkinson Theatre.
The school’s 38th annual poetry, art and photography publication, “Pegasus,” was also officially unveiled during the event. The 115-page book, designed by Mass Communication students in the Layout and Graphic Design course, boasted a matte black finish with rose gold lettering on the cover. This year’s edition was dedicated to Claudia Buckmaster, Dean of the Humanities Division.
Attendees were treated to hors d’oeuvres preceding the reading, which began with introductory speaker and Professor of English and Humanities Trixie Walther, herself also a poet. Three poets whose work is featured in the 2018 “Pegasus,” Cathy Miller, Michael Lane and Kathy Merkx, then took turns reciting a few of their favorite pieces. Next, excerpts of original works were delivered by Kristin Hahn, Lacey Veazey-Daniel, R.J. Woods, Trixie Walther and Carl Sennhenn.
Poem content ranged from stories of loss and hopelessness to those of bliss and reminiscence; from complex relationships to personal dreams. Some were lengthy and descriptive, others were short but powerful. A few poets offered an explanation of their work, while others left the meaning up to their listeners.
“Interpret as you will,” Lane commented, just before he read his poem titled “RE.”
The theater lights were dimmed; the atmosphere, serene. Throughout each reading, audience members remained quiet, except perhaps when a particular line inspired interruptive—yet welcomed—applause. A few even snapped their fingers in approval.
After sharing a handful of her poems, Hahn announced that the Axley Award for Fiction and Poetry had been officially endowed. The award was established in 1994 to honor the late Dr. James Axley, a Rose State faculty member who served as the editor for “Pegasus” for more than a decade. Rose students with 3.0 GPA or higher and who have completed at least 12 credit hours are eligible to enter the contest for $500 in cash. The deadline for submissions, either three poems or two short stories, is Monday, April 30.
Sennhenn explained he participated in Poetry at Rose when it first began 30 years ago. He mentioned several names of people who were also involved from the very start.
“They all would be delighted … that we are still doing this,” he said.
Following a brief intermission held in the lobby, author and East Central University professor Ken Hada took the stage as the featured speaker to share just portions of his large original poetry collection.
The night concluded with Hada delivering his poem about a conversation he had with his son. All Poetry at Rose guests were offered a free copy of “Pegasus” as they left, and were able to purchase additional copies if they desired. The book can now be purchased in the Humanities division office for $3, as long as supplies last.
For information about publishing original work in next year’s “Pegasus,” contact Walther at email@example.com or 733-7513. For information regarding the Axley Award for Fiction and Poetry, email Hahn at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 733-7519.
Story & Photo Illustration by JaNae Williams
When Oklahomans go to the polls June 26, State Question 788 will give voters the opportunity to decide whether Oklahoma will join the 29 states and District of Columbia, which currently allows their residents to use marijuana medically.
The legalization of marijuana for both medical and recreational use has been debated for years. First steps toward legalization in Oklahoma began with the passing of Katie’s Law in 2015, allowing for the use of Cannabidiol products in children with seizures. CBD products including oils, salves and edibles are manufactured from hemp rather than marijuana to limit the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive molecule found in high concentrations of marijuana.
In 2016, Gov. Mary Fallin signed an additional law into effect amending the state definition of marijuana so that CBD substances containing less than the three-tenths of one percent level for THC are not included. From there, the use of CBD products expanded to help those with other ailments.
SQ 788 intends to legalize the licensed use, sale and growth of marijuana in Oklahoma for medicinal purposes. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, doctors and business owners all have their ideas about if and how legalization for medical use should occur in Oklahoma. Supporters of the ballot measure have already overcome one hurdle, winning a case in the Oklahoma Supreme Court regarding its wording. The ballot measure was challenged and rewritten by former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.
“[Pruitt] went through under his powers as attorney general and tried to rewrite the ballot measure in a way that would frame the argument in a pretty negative light,” said Democratic Rep. Scott Inman.
Inman added that Pruitt, an opponent of both medical and recreational use, selected wording to help get the bill defeated and therefore made the measure seem as though it was legalizing the use of marijuana for everything. In March 2017, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled against Pruitt’s rewritten version of the ballot measure.
Still some believe that SQ 788 in its current form does not provide for adequate regulation of the drug, or sets Oklahoma up for legalization in a way that is not solely medical.
“The reason [SQ 788] might have a negative effect is because even though it’s titled medical marijuana, if you read the state question, there’s portions of it that really cover recreational marijuana,” said Republican Rep. Roger Ford.
Ford thinks marijuana does have medical benefits and Oklahomans should be able to vote on a bill regarding medical or recreational marijuana, as long as they know exactly what that bill includes.
When it comes to medical legalization, opponents often point to what they deem as a lack of scientific research to back the assertions of the healing and restorative effects claimed by advocates. But those currently running Oklahoma’s legal cannabis dispensaries see things differently.
“Any doctor who says he doesn’t know enough to recommend this, then his higher education stopped when he crossed that stage and got his diploma,” said Hector Najar, who co-owns Herban Mother with his wife Mary.
Najar further explained there are simply too many peer-reviewed studies published in scientific journals or available online for people to continue to deny the effects. The Najars became educated on some of the effects of cannabis during their time working with a medical marijuana dispensary in San Jose, California. They watched participants in a Stanford University clinical trial for cancer patients and knew they would someday start a dispensary in Oklahoma.
Herban Mother was founded from the desire for the Najars to improve their own health. From humble beginnings selling organic produce through their distribution company Herban Gardens, a turn toward natural medicine, including the extraction of essential oils, occurred. When the pair met Ryan Early, CEO of OKC-based Can-Tek Labs, the only FDA-licensed manufacturer of CBD in the state, a great partnership was formed.
“We were able to take the production that we did and, [through] letting Ryan and Can-Tek Labs ... become the mixologists and add the CBD, [make] it just an incredibly high quality, strong anti-inflammatory [and] pain reducer,” said Mary Najar.
The Najars believe in their products and can recount story after story of lives changed through the use of CBD, including their own.
“Look what I can do,” said Najar, while turning his head and body quickly from side to side. “I couldn’t do this in October. I was a cripple.”
Prior to his use of CBD, Najar found himself unable to function normally in daily life because of his chronic neck and back pain. Even the simplest of tasks were painful or even dangerous. He needed help to dress and was unable to turn his head from side to side when driving. Bending over sometimes meant his wife finding him on the floor, too overcome with pain to move.
“I’ve been to the point to where I wanted to commit suicide, I hurt so bad,” Najar said as he and his wife fought back tears at the memory.
Doctors had given him a prescription of pharmaceuticals and surgery to manage his pain for the rest of his life. Now Najar speaks joyfully of the day he walked into the orthopedic surgeon’s office able to turn down medication and say, “I don’t need you.”
While some lawmakers feel that SQ 788’s current wording is masking some of its true intent, others believe this historical bill has the potential for a number of positive impacts on the state.
“We’ve not had a legalization question for marijuana make it on a statewide ballot in state history,” Inman said. “Once medicinal use is legalized here, that it will sort of destigmatize the use of marijuana.”
Inman thinks much of the negative backlash others may perceive will be minimal pointing to the success seen, in multiple areas, by other states who have legalized the drug. Colorado, where marijuana use is legal both medically and recreationally, boasted a tax revenue of $198.5 million in 2016. If it were possible to sustain them, revenue numbers like this could have the potential to eliminate Oklahoma’s budget shortfalls.
Inman also pointed out the broader benefits in terms of healthcare, specifically for citizens with chronic neurological diseases. Inman’s father suffers from Parkinson’s disease, one of many neurological disorders for which medical marijuana is studied as a treatment.
“[Legalization] might have a long-term benefit to those folks who are suffering with diseases that could benefit from it, and then obviously the ancillary benefit of their family members who care for those people,” Inman said.
The debate will continue until voters take to the polls in June. For both Inman and the Najars, the hope is that voters will take the time to educate themselves on the matter.
“If people would realize it’s very, very safe, CBD, and be open to it. It won’t kill you. Tylenol, Ibuprofen can kill you this could change the world,” said Mary Najar, “It could absolutely change the world.”
To read SQ788 in full, visit the link.
Click here for more information on voting and voter registration.