Facing multiple bills that they say would undermine their rights to medical marijuana, hundreds of protesters swarmed Oklahoma’s state capitol on Thursday.
The legislation that provoked the demonstration could have myriad effects: one proposal would ban billboards advertising medical cannabis; another would prohibit dispensaries from being built near churches.
Oklahoma voters approved a measure legalizing medical marijuana in 2018, and the new law took effect last August.
Linda Jerchau, a grower at Hypnotic Farms in Claremore, Oklahoma, said she showed up to protest in the capital of Oklahoma City this week so that her business can maintain the rights enshrined in the new law.
“We’re not asking for anything except just let us be a business,” said Jerchau, as quoted by The Oklahoman. “We’re legal. Let us stay legal. Let us be.”
The Oklahoman reported that Jerchau attended the rally with her father, John Blackwell, who said he uses medical marijuana to help him sleep.
“It doesn’t knock you out,” he said. “It helps you relax and sleep.”
“We’re not going to let them get away with it,” Blackwell added. “The public wanted it passed as a law, it got passed as a law, then why are they trying to nibble away at it?”
A bill introduced this month by Republican state Sen. Mark Allen would ban medical marijuana businesses from advertising on billboards.
Republican state House Rep. Jim Olsen, meanwhile, offered up a proposal that would prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries from being located within 1000 feet of any place of worship.
“We don’t really want children to think that marijuana is the answer to their problems,” Olsen said, as quoted by The Oklahoman. “Now, that’s not to dispute what many people, older people say that it has helped their pain. I wouldn’t dispute that for a minute.”
Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program has, by all accounts, been embraced by residents in the deeply conservative state.
The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) reported last summer that it had approved nearly 150,000 license for patients to receive medical cannabis, placing it near the top among the 33 states in the country that have legalized medical cannabis.
That number vastly exceeded what state officials expected for the first year of enrollment. After the measure passed on the ballot in 2018, officials said they anticipated roughly 80,000 patients enrolling in the opening year.