What the Rest of the World Can Learn From Oklahoma’s Medical Program

This is information sharing about What the Rest of the World Can Learn From Oklahoma’s Medical Program. Well, medical programs are nothing new, cannabis has been a medicinal plant for millennia, and even after the 20th century’s anti-cannabis legislative blitz. ,

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The first medical marijuana program in the U.S. was launched as early as 1978 in New Mexico, at least in theory. Today, only a handful of states do not permit medical marijuana use and lack a program to provide it to residents in need. As widespread as medical marijuana programs might be, Oklahoma’s is undoubtedly the best. Here are a few facts about Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program and why other states need to consider adopting similar rules and regulations.

It Doesn’t Have to Take-Two Years to Develop an Effective Program

It can take several years for pro-marijuana groups to drum up support for a state marijuana initiative and achieve a place on a ballot, and unfortunately, even if that measure receives overwhelming support from voters, many states are not effective in developing regulations and making cannabis products available to the public in a reasonable amount of time. For example, though both Colorado and Washington agreed to legalize recreational weed in 2012, neither state was able to develop and enact actionable marijuana law until 2014. Even worse, in 2018 Vermont essentially approved a bill allowing Vermonters to obtain and use the drug, but the state legislature has since made no move to develop regulations for cannabis sales, so residents of the state are stuck in limbo, unsure where or how to get the products legally.

Though Oklahoma has regulations only for a medical marijuana program, those regulations came immediately on the heels of Oklahomans’ overwhelming support of medical marijuana access — or about as immediately as legislatures can move. In January 2018, Oklahomans voted to legalize the medical use of cannabis, and by August 2018, Oklahoma dispensaries had products on their shelves. This speedy development of state regulations was not the result of championing from the state’s attorney General, board of health, courts or governor; instead, it was Oklahomans fighting for what they believed in and working together to develop laws that met their needs.

Restricting Qualifying Conditions Is, Well, Restrictive

Most medical marijuana programs are only available to those who need to use marijuana for a medical reason. Unfortunately, different states dispute what qualifies as a medical reason. Every state (except Oklahoma) publishes a list of qualifying conditions, which tend to cover the most destructive, painful or otherwise untreatable conditions imaginable — issues like cancer and AIDS, multiple sclerosis and ALS and even mental illness like depression and PTSD. However, each state has its own list of conditions; someone who suffers from Crohn’s disease would be able to use cannabis as a treatment in Arizona, but not if they live in Alaska, regardless of how unbearable their symptoms may be. These lists of qualifying conditions can be extremely unfair as they strive to rank the suffering caused by different conditions without taking into account an individual’s experience.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program does not include a list of qualifying conditions. Instead, it trusts that doctors and patients will be honest about their experiences and reasonable with regard to when marijuana is an appropriate treatment. This provides much more flexibility to sufferers of all conditions and leaves the door open should science reveal greater applicability of marijuana to a variety of disease and discomfort.

Programs Thrive When They Are More Affordable and More Accessible

The COVID crisis has helped the cannabis industries across the U.S. thrive, but Oklahoma in particular is seeing a significant boom. Though recreational weed is not yet available, the state is earning millions of dollars every month in tax revenues from their medical program alone — and not because they are charging exorbitant amounts for licenses or marijuana products. Rather, the program is so effective at reaching patients who need cannabis treatment, and the state is so effective at keeping products affordable, that Oklahomans don’t see the need to rely on a black market or bother with travel to another state.

In contrast, a handful of much more liberal states are not seeing such success with their marijuana programs. In California, for example, the marijuana black market isbooming, and considering the punishing taxes and fees applied to marijuana products, it is easy to see why so many cannabis consumers are looking for alternatives to legal dispensaries. It turns out that increasing the cost of weed doesn’t discourage people from using the drug; it merely forces those who need and want the drug to find illegal and potentially dangerous alternatives.

Oklahoma’s marijuana program is far from perfect — but it could be as close to perfect as any medical marijuana program in the U.S. As we inch closer to universal cannabis access (for adults, of course) we should look to Oklahoma as inspiration.

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