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Oklahoma voters approve of medical marijuana despite opposition

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma voters on Tuesday backed the medicinal use of marijuana, overcoming a late campaign of justice and police and the business community, faith and political leaders.

Condition 788 , the result of an activist-led signature drive launched more than two years ago, makes it legal to grow, sell and use marijuana for medicinal purposes. The proposed law outlines any terms and conditions, which doctors to authorize its use for a wide range of conditions — a fact that led to bitter opposition, especially of police and justice.

Under the proposed law, a two-year medical marijuana license would allow anyone to possess up to 8 ounces of marijuana, six mature plants and six seedlings, along with edibles and other concentrated forms of the drug.

Gov. Mary Fallin said she feared the proposal would essentially legalize recreational pot, and said, if it passed they would most likely call on lawmakers to return for a special session for the setting up of a regulatory framework for medicinal pot.

Oklahoma is the first marijuana question on a state ballot in 2018, with the elections planned for later this year in Michigan and Utah. Voters in neighboring Arkansas, which legalized the drug for medical use in 2016, but Oklahoma is one of the most conservative states to approve.

In Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Robert Pemberton, 58, said he supported the measure because he believed it is useful in other states, which legalized medical marijuana.

“They have too much money, and we need that, especially for our teachers,” Pemberton said. “I think we need the income. I think we need the money. Our state is financially in trouble and I think it would really help.”

A group called SQ 788 is Not Medical started with a late $500,000 media blitz that painted the proposal as a plan to legalize the recreational use of the drug under the guise of medical care.

“This is a bad public health policy that do not seem to be a legitimate medical treatment program,” said Dr. Kevin Taubman, former president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association and chairman of the opposition group.

Connie Givens, 67, said she voted against the measure, because they believe that it is written too broad and could permit recreational use of the drug.

“I think it’s not written right. I think it’s just the marijuana,” said Givens, a Republican in Oklahoma City.

Even though Oklahoma has a reputation for being a conservative state, attitudes have shifted to focus on marijuana in the past decades, especially among young people, says Bill Shapard, a researcher who has studied Oklahomans on the topic for more than five years.

“I have almost half of all Republicans support it, so that’s going to be quite a lot of money and a lot of the organized resistance to these to lose out on the election day,” Shapard said.

Oklahoma’s tough-on-crime ideology has also come at a cost, with the state of the rising prison population consuming a larger share of the state’s limited funding. In 2016, the voters approved a question to any drug possession crime, a misdemeanor, despite the opposition that the proposal of justice and police and public prosecutors.

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Associated Press writer Tim Talley contributed to this report from Oklahoma City.

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