A Study of Medical Marijuana
Marijuana, Cannabis, pot.
Whatever you call it, it’s legal for medicinal use in 17 states and the District of Columbia.
But, not in Oklahoma.
Well, one lawmaker wants to at least study what would happen if Oklahoma made a move to approve medical marijuana.
Attorney Chad Moody’s office in downtown Oklahoma City stand out from most lawyers’ offices with images of the iconic marijuana leaf posted everywhere.
The self-proclaimed Drug Lawyer says he sees 10 to 20 cases a week dealing with marijuana and has about 100 open files at any given time.
It’s safe to say Moody’s very passionate about legalizing medical marijuana.
“Well I’m tired of seeing people’s lives destroyed over what should just be a simple freedom issue. I’m libertarian. I like laws that are just there to protect us from people who do harm, and there’s nothing harmful about marijuana.”
But, State Senator A. J. Griffin disagrees.
Griffin spent several years working and running a treatment center for addicts and at risk children.
The state Department of Health shows 36-percent of kids admitted to smoking pot in 2011
Griffin worries that number will grow if the state allows for the medicinal use of marijuana.
“We have evidence with other prescription medications that are being misused. Even though it would be prescribed for medical purpose it doesn’t mean that adolescence and other individuals are not going to misuse that substance.”
Despite her strong opposition to medical marijuana, Griffin welcomes the chance to look at the issue in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
Griffin sits on the committee along with the woman who asked for the interim study.
Senator Constance Johnson has introduced three medical marijuana bills in the past six years and has yet to get a hearing on it.
The Oklahoma City Democrat says she’s fighting against what she calls the failed wars on drugs and crime and the demonization of marijuana which stretches back nearly a hundred years.
“Whoever the powers that be at the time got to make claims about marijuana and how they associated it with black musicians and all of these images they put out there of black men raping white women because they was under the influence of marijuana.”
Johnson says she’s pleased the interim study was approved by President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, but whether it actually gets a hearing is up to the Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee.
Senator Brian Crain hasn’t made a decision yet and wants to meet more with Senator Johnson to make sure the study isn’t just one sided.
“I want to see medical researchers. I want to see learned documents. I want someone to explain that this is a drug that ought to be made available just like any other drug.”
The American Medical Association wants further studies of marijuana.
But, the AMA doesn’t endorse medical cannabis programs or the legalization of marijuana saying there isn’t enough scientific evidence on the therapeutic use of marijuana.
The Oklahoma State Medical Association shares the belief of the AMA and stands ready to say so if called to an interim study.
Chairman Crain says he opposes medical marijuana as it appears to be just a stepping stone for the decriminalization of marijuana across the board.
A view shared by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.
“Even the pot smokers themselves recognize and openly admit this is not about medicine and compassion,” says spokesman Mark Woodard. “It is about getting to smoke marijuana without fear of police intervention.”
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws or NORML has statistics showing thousands of people a year have been arrested for marijuana possession.
Woodard says not all arrests result in jail and those who do are there after multiple offenses or have pleaded down from a much stricter trafficking violation after being caught with large amounts of the drug.
“So they may get a two year sentence for marijuana possession when they actually had several pounds in their truck and they were selling it but they agreed with the prosecutors for a lesser sentence that they would plead from trafficking or possession with intent to possession.”
Woodard says the biggest argument against the legalization of marijuana is there are other drugs to handle issues such as nausea and pain.
25 year army veteran Charles knows all too well about those other drugs.
He’s been dealing with pain for years because of his time serving the country and has a large bottle on his coffee table with different prescriptions.
For him, the debate is simple.
“You either believe in it or you don’t, and I’m a believer in it because I know it helps me I don’t have to take all these narcotics.”
Charles takes 55 milligrams of oxycodone every day to deal with his pain which comes with its own set of side effects.
“This is a slow death, these medications, these pills, and I’ve got eight other types of medications mood stabilizers, because I believe in cannabis as being a cure a medical property for what ails me. I’ve got a lot of…,” Charles sighs. “I’m broke in a lot of ways, I’ll just say it that way.”
Despite opposition to medical marijuana, the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs does welcome an open discussion on the issue.
Senate Health and Human Services Chairman Crain says if he makes a decision on the interim study it would have to be held in early October to avoid conflict with the upcoming elections.