Johnson brings pot petition to county
Dr. Ron Myers (left) with the Roland Wellness Clinic, guest speaker
Senator Connie Johnson (right) at the Wellness Clinic for a meet-and-greet.
Photo by Anny Sivilay
Oklahomans for Health announced Wednesday that their petition drive to get medical marijuana on the November ballot is in the final stages. The group will be returning the signed petitions to the Oklahoma Secretary of State's office on Aug. 15. This announcement came coincidentally after Senator Constance “Connie” Johnson's visit to Sequoyah County Wednesday in which the main topic was about the legalization of marijuana.
“We are going to be very very close,” said Chip Paul, Chairman of Oklahomans for Health. “I would encourage everyone who wants to sign the petition to get out and sign it this weekend. Every single signature will be important and we want to make sure everyone who wants to sign it has a chance.”
Senator Johnson held a meet-and-greet in Roland Wednesday night as part of her campaign for a U.S. Senate seat. Johnson started her visit in Roland at the Wellness Clinic to speak with some of Dr. Ron Myers pain patients about a petition to legalize marijuana in Oklahoma for recreational and medicinal purposes, as well as the need to decriminalize marijuana. From there she continued on to Sallisaw.
Johnson sponsored SB 2116, which would legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana in Oklahoma for recreational and medicinal uses, but when that bill did not pass she decided to take the issue to the streets with a petition.
“I became senator in 2005, and the very first session in 2006, I heard from people about the issues of medical marijuana,” said Johnson. “So in 2007 I introduced a bill (SB 2116) calling for a task force to study medical marijuana. It didn't get a hearing and sessions are two years long. In 2009 introduced it again.”
Johnson reintroduced the bill several times after that until it got a hearing in 2013 but ultimately did not pass. The upside was that with each reintroduction of the bill more people were calling her and showing interest in this issue. She added that it all started with one man who had approached her about the issue and Oklahomans have been receptive to her message.
“They're (people) tired of our tax paying dollars not working for us, and Sequoyah County is no different. We're taking it (this issue) to every corner of the state,” she said.
After the failed attempts with SB 2116, Johnson took the issue to the streets with a petition.
“This petition that we're pushing for right now will allow us to possess marijuana up to 1 ounce if you're 21 years or older in the privacy of your home. Children can't use it except under a doctor's care – such as a child with epilepsy or other condition,” she explained. “We would propose a tax of 7 percent on it.”
Of the 7 percent collected, Johnson said 30 percent of that would to towards funding public education, 20 percent would be used to help those with substance abuse through counseling, and the rest will go into the general fund.
“I learned the concept of 'Do no harm,' and the whole issue of drugs in America and our responses to them; not as a health issue but as a criminal issue,” Johnson said. “You had a lot of situations where people who were in bad health were being criminalize and being locked away for years.”
“We have 49 people serving life without parol in Oklahoma. We have children who are dying because they can't get the oil that was created by the Charlotte's Web strain of marijuana – CBD,” she added.
The Stanley brothers bred a strain of cannabis high in cannabidiol (CBD) in 2009 after entering the medical marijuana industry, according to The Realm of Caring (www.theroc.us).
"After meeting the Figi family in early 2012, and discovering 5 year old Charlotte Figi's dramatic success in her battle with epilepsy, the Stanley's CBD project became known as the Charlotte's Web™ breeding project,” as stated on the website. “To date, there are several phenotypic strains that have emerged from the CW project which have low enough THC to be considered Hemp. Currently, only certain phenotypes are commonly used for the CBD infused into Charlotte's Web Hemp Products™, due to the high success rate of these specific cannabinoid profiles in intractable epilepsy.”
Johnson further said that children are dying, and veterans are suffering from chronic pain and post traumatic stress disorder and causing them to commit suicide.
She quoted Genesis 1:29 of the Bible, in which God created every seed and plant to be good. Johnson explained that cannabis had been used in a variety of ways prior to the 1920s, but when prohibition came around it was demonized.
"The war on drugs came about in the 80s ad 90s with Richard Nixon, but prior to that the demonization of marijuana started in the 20s. But prior to that, Oklahoma led the nation in rope production,” Johnson said. “Hemp, marijuana, all forms of cannabis. Marijuana was prescribed regularly to treat conditions. It was especially prescribed to treat women's menstrual cramps.”
“This whole issue of prohibition has been going on for over 40 years in America, and we're seeing the results of it today when we have pain patients sitting in clinics being threaten with their medicines being taken away from them because there is a system in place that is run by folks who are profiting off of this trade,” she continued.
"You can breed the plant to be what you want it to be,” she said, adding that the U.S. Declaration of Independence is written on hemp.
Johnson said the legalization of marijuana can greatly benefit Oklahoma's economy if the laws would allow it. There are hemp products on the shelves now that are imported from overseas when it can be made at home.
"We (Oklahoma) are the poster child for private prisons. Our governor has been bought, purchased and sold, by the private prison system of Oklahoma,” she said. “You've got pharmaceutical companies who are trying their best to stop marijuana, to give them enough time to come up with a pill that they can sell.”
"It's your commodity, and they don't want you to reap the benefits of it. It's so bad, we pay $500,000 a year to burn it down. When we have farmers who can be benefiting from that crop,” Johnson said.
Cannabis would be creating an industry where farmers can farm three times a year. A room of hemp can make the same amount of paper that it takes four trees to make, but trees take 20 years to mature, whereas marijuana replenishes itself three times a year, according to Johnson.
Dr. Myers and many pain patients stand behind her on this issue.
"I support that medically, medicinal marijuana can help the condition of some of my patients,” added Dr. Myers
"(It) should be legalized,” said Bruce Johnson, who attended the meet-and-greet. “It's useful for all kinds of stuff other than getting high.”
Johnson's campaign to legalize marijuana is not without some opposition.
"They said I was smoking marijuana. They said everything they could about me to try to discourage me and scare me into not advocating about this issue,” she said.
Johnson said her campaign is not just about marijuana, but that this issue is just one thing that needs to be changed in Oklahoma.
According to the Oklahoma for Health, the group would need about 156,000 signatures to get the issue put on the November ballot. The group currently has around 120,000, not including the signature pages that are still out, which is expected to be another 30,000. Oklahomans for Health is encouraging all volunteers and organizations to mail in their signature sheets no later than Aug. 11.
"Oklahomans want this, there is no question. We have such a high signature burden that it makes this campaign very difficult. We have to touch every area of the state and that gets costly,” said Paul.
April 23-30, 2016