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Medical marijuana vote should be based on facts, not guesswork

On Sunday, The Lawton Constitution published a decidedly one-sided article regarding the upcoming vote on SQ 788. In the article, they state that many Oklahoma physicians are against the law, but neglect to actually include any information from even one of these doctors to learn why they are opposed.

The Constitution is not alone. Throughout this campaign, the organizers of SQ 788 have said they want doctors to decide what’s best for their patients. If this is the case, why did they fail to contact the state’s largest physicians’ groups, including the Oklahoma State Medical Association, to get doctors’ thoughts on this issue? Though I can’t be sure, one can only assume they didn’t want to truly look at the medical implications of this measure, but just wanted to pass what is essentially recreational marijuana in disguise.

Before I explain why this is not medical marijuana, let me clarify a point that has been lost in the conjectures floating back and forth: The Oklahoma State Medical Association (OSMA) and its members actually support the use of medical marijuana under certain conditions. However, we are vehemently opposed to any law that could potentially harm more people than it helps. That is what could happen if SQ 788 passes.

Recently, OSMA joined other groups, such as the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce, in forming the “SQ 788 Is Not Medical” coalition. Below are just a few of many concerns we and our coalition members have. 

1. There are no qualifying conditions to gain a two-year marijuana card. Again, organizers say this is so physicians can decide, but in reality, physicians have no say on treatment after a card is issued. Instead, patients are at the mercy of untrained cannabis sales clerks to determine dosage and what method is best to take the cannabis (smokables, teas, edibles, oils, etc.). There is no medical discussion of interactions with prescription drugs, no physician follow-up to ensure there are no serious reactions and no true dosage information for each illness, as one would have with any other medication prescribed today.

2. Oklahoma would be the only state in the nation to offer open-ended “medical” marijuana. In fact, every other state that has passed true medical marijuana has tight regulations as to qualifying conditions, delivery methods and even the amount that can be purchased (not held) within a 30-day-period.

3. Furthermore, SQ 788 is so poorly written that we would all have to rely on the Oklahoma Legislature to ‘fix’ the multitude of serious gaps and safety concerns in the bill within 30 days from June 26. This is not feasible. Why would anyone believe our legislature could pull off the complexities related to “fixing” SQ 788 within 30 days, especially at a price tag of $30,000 a day for a special session?

4. Speaking of impossible timelines, SQ 788 tasks the already overburdened Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) to oversee the required 30-day rollout to Oklahomans, and to do so with an already decimated employee base. Therefore, to accomplish this impractical goal, the OSDH will have to cut back on numerous essential programs, such as food safety, hospital oversight, elder care and even the Sooner care medical program for children. Oh, and all of this must be done with no up-front funding and limited funding from patient licenses and one-time grower fees.

5. From looking at the difficulties in other states, we know there will be serious health consequences to others, such as exposure to second-hand smoke, accidental ingestion of marijuana edibles, etc., by children, and a greater chance of addiction amongst young people. 

6. From a business standpoint, numerous workplace and employment concerns abound with SQ 788 as it is written. Not only will this bill make it incredibly difficult for employers to remove users from the workplace, it will result in a greater risk of workplace accidents that put other employees, and even innocent bystanders, in danger. 

The issue of medical marijuana is extremely important to our patients who suffer from serious ailments, such as AIDS and cancer. They don’t deserve a program based on hearsay and a framework slapped together within 30 days. Instead, Oklahomans must have a safe and effective option for care that is right from the beginning. SQ 788 is not that option.

Jean R. Hausheer, M.D., F.A.C.S., is president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association.

The Lawton Constitution

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