Signed as Law: Oklahoma Expands Medical Marijuana Program Despite Federal Prohibition

By Mike Maharrey

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (May 22, 2019) – Earlier this month, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill that will increase the number of doctors authorized to recommend medical marijuana. The new law will effectively expand the state’s medical cannabis program despite federal prohibition.

Sen. Rob Standridge (R-Norman) along with two fellow Republicans, introduced Senate Bill 162 (SB162) on Feb. 4. The legislation drops a requirement that a physician must be “board-certified” in order to recommend medical marijuana for patients. Under the new law, any physician licensed by, and in good standing with, the State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision or the State Board of Osteopathic Examiners will be able to recommend medicinal cannabis for patients.

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SB162 passed the House 74-4 and the Senate gave final approval by a 42-3 margin. With Gov. Stitt’s signature, the law went into immediate effect.

Enactment of SB162 will significantly expand the pool of doctors authorized to recommend medical marijuana.

Oklahomans for Cannabis founder Frank Grove told the Oklahoman that the requirement that a physician must be “board-certified” was one of the “biggest hurdles” to implementing the state’s medical marijuana program.

“Removing the board certification requirement will eliminate a great deal of confusion and increase access to patients as more physicians will be authorized to recommend,” he said. “This is a good change for everyone.”

A board-certified doctor has completed extra training in a specific medical field.

This is another example of the rapidly expanding availability of marijuana despite federal prohibition.

EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION

Under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains complete prohibition of marijuana. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate cannabis within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

Oklahoma voters approved medical marijuana last June, removing one layer of laws prohibiting marijuana in the stare, but federal prohibition remains in place.

FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. When states stop enforcing marijuana laws, they sweep away most of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

Passage of SB162 further undermines prohibition make it that much more difficult for the federal government to enforce it in Oklahoma.

A GROWING MOVEMENT

Oklahoma is one of a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition, and nullifying it in practice.

Along with Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joined them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization passed in November 2016. In 2018, Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act. and Michigan passed a ballot measure legalizing cannabis for general use.

With 33 states including Oklahoma allowing cannabis for medical use, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition anymore.

“The lesson here is pretty straightforward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.

Expansion of medical marijuana laws in Oklahoma demonstrates another important reality. Once a state puts laws in place legalizing cannabis, they tend to eventually expand. SB162 serves as a perfect example of this tendency. As the state tears down some barriers, markets develop and demand expands. That creates pressure to further relax state law. This bill represents a further erosion of unconstitutional federal marijuana prohibition. It also demonstrates an important strategic point. Passing bills that take a step forward sets the stage, even if they aren’t perfect. Opening the door clears the way for additional steps. You can’t take the second step before you take the first.

Michael Maharrey [send him email] is the Communications Director for the Tenth Amendment Center, where this article first appeared. He proudly resides in the original home of the Principles of ’98 – Kentucky. See his blog archive here and his article archive here. He is the author of the book, Our Last Hope: Rediscovering the Lost Path to Liberty. You can visit his personal website at MichaelMaharrey.com and like him on Facebook HERE

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