Medical Marijuana Reform: What Does The US House Vote Postponement Mean For MMJ?

The current pandemic has caused a lot of government operations to come to a standstill. Many sectors have been hyper-focused on addressing the rising numbers of COVID-19 and efforts to slow transmission of the virus.

One such reform that has taken a back seat is medical marijuana. A planned vote that was supposed to take place in September has been postponed, and it’s possible that it won’t be back on the table until after the much-anticipated 2020 election. So, what does this mean for medical marijuana reform in the United States?

Federal legalization 2020 could have some roadblocks

Prior to the onset of the pandemic, many states had introduced a bill to decriminalize marijuana that would allow for reform on the punishments received for those in possession. With the virus causing many committees to adjourn, it’s not clear when they will be available for the vote.

Medical cannabis programs had also been introduced in states including Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Caroline, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, but all have adjourned early, with some bills dying before they could even get off the ground.

MMJRecs - prison
Image by Matthew Ansley on Unsplash: Many people are awaiting reform to have prior and pending marijuana convictions overturned. 

The MORE Act

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act was proposed in 2019 in efforts to take cannabis out of the Controlled Substances Act, thus leading to lessened criminal punishments for use and possession for both the future and for those with prior or pending convictions. It would also pave the way for funding and grant programs for small businesses in the industry.

As of writing, 33 states have opted into allowing the use of medical marijuana for a variety of conditions, but with the stall of the marijuana legalization vote, it’s not certain when the others will follow suit.   

What the new marijuana legislation will mean

For many Americans, especially people of color or those in certain disenfranchised communities, the need for legalization of marijuana is particularly important. Statistics have shown that certain communities are more susceptible to facing harsher penalties for marijuana related offences, which in turn threatens their ability to progress throughout their life. For those with drug-related offenses surrounding the use of marijuana, this could mean serving prison time. The new legislation aims to eliminate the chance of that altogether and impose fines instead.

Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez found the delay of the vote was based on fear and that the choice to push this particular bill could be racially motivated, and that it’s possible that there are more nefarious actions at play on behalf of the Republican party.

Why is marijuana legalization important?

Studies have shown that the use of medical marijuana can be of great benefit for people suffering from certain ailments such as cancer, chronic pain, mood disorders, and digestive dysfunction. When states continue to keep cannabis on the criminalized list of substances, it’s hard for people to access something that would help them greatly in their battle to a better quality of life.

It’s also important for certain demographics to be unafraid of the use of small amounts of marijuana, because in its current state, many people are convicted of serious offences when it is not necessary. This increase in both fear and risk leads to less regulation, more opportunity for harmful chemicals to be added to marijuana, and increased danger when purchasing. Research has also found that the use of marijuana recreationally among adults was less of a risk in terms of long-term effects than the long-term recreational use of alcohol.

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Image by Justin Cron on Unsplash: The current racial divide in the United States could benefit from measures such as medical marijuana reform.

Because there is no definitive timeline for when the COVID-19 pandemic will be over, especially with cases still on the rise in many areas, it’s not likely that the bills will be introduced prior to election day. This delay in voting has also had an impact on the tension between the Republic and Democratic parties, as well the racial divide that the country currently finds itself in. Many communities who fall victim to the unfair marijuana laws are predominantly people of color, as are many people who have already been convicted for cannabis-related offences.

Medical marijuana reform is needed in all states to ensure that there is racial equality and access to proper medical care if someone so requires it, and these bills, if passed, will help bridge those gaps.

Image by Quick PS on Unsplash

What’s New For Oklahoma Medical Marijuana In 2020?

Since Oklahoma legalized medical marijuana (MMJ) back in August 2018, the state has quickly become home to one of the largest populations of MMJ users in the entire country. In fact, with more than 210,000 MMJ patients as of November 2019, MMJ users account for nearly 5% of the state’s population. These numbers also reflect that Oklahoma has the biggest MMJ program throughout the whole U.S. The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) is the board that authorizes MMJ applications, and their offices have basically been overrun by patients looking to get approved for the usage of MMJ products.

What you need to know about Oklahoma medical marijuana in 2020

With more MMJ patients than in any other state, the Oklahoma MMJ industry is booming with sales of more than $350 million through the end of last year. So, why is the market thriving so much more than in other parts of the country? There are a few reasons, one being that Oklahoma is pretty close to a free-market system. This means that there are no caps on the number of business licenses that can be awarded to dispensaries. Municipalities are also prohibited from enacting zoning restrictions, so it’s difficult to actually prevent dispensaries from opening in certain areas. As of late last year, the state had issued licenses for more than 2,000 dispensaries, 1,400 processors, and 4,900 growers. With this type of growth, some people estimate that the state’s revenue could reach as high as $700 million a year in sales from MMJ products in the future.

But perhaps one of the biggest factors that affects Oklahoma MMJ in 2020 is that doctors in the state are permitted to recommend MMJ products for whatever condition they deem fit. This allows for MMJ patients to have more flexibility in receiving the products they need to help alleviate their physical or mental health symptoms. Bypassing stricter policies in other states means that Oklahomans can get MMJ products to help with a wider range of illnesses and medical conditions.

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Image by GAD-BM on Pixabay: It’s never been easier to get access to medical marijuana in Oklahoma.

Are there new laws around Oklahoma medical cannabis in 2020?

There will likely be new regulations and adjustments made to the MMJ laws in the state over the course of 2020. There’s a bill in the works called SAFE Banking Act, which would prohibit federal entities from punishing banks who are providing services to cannabis-related businesses. At this point, there are still regulations working against medical marijuana businesses from using basic banking services (mostly because marijuana is still illegal on a federal level). Some banks are still allowing these businesses to use their services, but more unrestricted regulations could help remedy this issue entirely (and would most likely just lead to even more prospering MMJ businesses and higher sales).

There will also likely be legislation that will affect product labeling. There are pretty strict standards in place regarding the packaging, labeling, and testing of marijuana products, but many people are guessing that there will be even more regulations put into law to ensure consumer safety overall. Companies will also most likely need to track their products with stricter regulations from ‘seed-to-sale’ for this reason as well.

Another major change will be surrounding the drug-testing aspect of medical marijuana. House Bill 2779, which will go before the legislature in February, would alter language regarding employment protections for MMJ cardholders. The measure currently states that employers may not take action against an MMJ cardholder based solely on their status as an MMJ user or the results of a drug test. The new bill would add language so that employers are banned from hiring or firing MMJ users unless a failure to do so would cause an employer the potential to lose a monetary or licensing-related benefit under federal law. While these laws could affect some aspects of an MMJ users’ experience, it’s likely that the Oklahoma MMJ population will just continue to grow throughout the state.

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Image by FutureFilmWorks on Pixabay: An MMJ card can allow you to grow your own cannabis products for medical purposes.

How can you get an MMJ recommendation in Oklahoma in 2020?

MMJ products can alleviate symptoms from a large number of medical conditions (everything from cancer and eating disorders to HIV and glaucoma). If you and your doctor think you can find a benefit from using these products, you can head to MMJRecs. They can do a virtual assessment to help see if you’d qualify for an MMJ card. Then they can provide an official medical marijuana recommendation, ID card, and grower’s permit all for one flat rate. The best part is that you never have to leave the comfort of your home to get it all taken care of. Plus, with an MMJ card, you’re permitted to possess:

  • Up to 8 ounces of marijuana in your residence
  • Up to 3 ounces of marijuana on your person outside of the home
  • Up to 1 ounce of concentrated marijuana
  • Up to 72 ounces of edibles
  • Up to 6 mature plants
  • Up to 6 seedling plants

If you’re thinking about getting an MMJ card in Oklahoma in 2020, now is the perfect time. With the immense popularity of medical marijuana in Oklahoma, your access to safe and reliable products is also growing. Even with any upcoming potential legislature, you’ll still be able to get all the many benefits of an MMJ card today!

Featured image by Stonepillow_B on Pixabay