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.

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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

Oklahoma And MMJ In 2019: The Story So Far

An OK MMJ card has finally become available. Oklahoma was a slow adopter of medical marijuana, and only a short while ago many pro-MMJ advocates in the state believed legalization may never come. But, in the space of only twelve months, everything has changed. Oklahoma has now joined the MMJ revolution… and it has done so with gusto!

“Is MMJ legal in Oklahoma yet?” has been a much-asked question throughout the country over the past few years. The question might originally have seemed ironic, the implication being that the traditionally conservative state would be the last state likely to legalize MMJ – and if it ever did that would be evidence that MMJ had become thoroughly accepted.

Over the past decade, a cascade of American states have been legalizing medical cannabis, but many Oklahomans were not holding their breath. But things changed with surprising speed. In June of 2018 Oklahomans were asked to vote on State Question 788. The citizens of Oklahoma voted to legalize MMJ in the Sooner State.

The history of medical marijuana in Oklahoma is barren. Cannabis has tended to be viewed largely as a recreational substance in the state. But the mountains of evidence that show how beneficial MMJ is for patients, as well as the copious business opportunities that legal MMJ can open up, have changed the minds of many Oklahomans.

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Read on for all you need to know about Oklahoma and MMJ!

When was MMJ Legalized in OK?

As mentioned, there is very little history of medical marijuana in Oklahoma. The state has always tended to take a conservation stance on such matters. An OK MMJ card seemed unlikely to ever come into existence at many times over the last few years. Despite the canvassing of pro-MMJ patients, scientists and medical professionals, local politicians, and state legislators were slow to be convinced of the merits of pushing for legal MMJ.

But while change came slowly, it did come. In June of 2018 Oklahomans were proposed State Question 788. The citizenry spoke and 57% decided that “…the licensed sale, use, and growth of marijuana in Oklahoma for medical purposes” should be allowed.

Once the Yes vote was confirmed, Oklahoma’s MMJ program was rolled out with usual speed. Dispensaries opened their doors just four months after legalization. The state now has one of the country’s most liberal medical cannabis programs, and the MMJ industry in Oklahoma is booming.

What has the Reception for Legal MMJ in OK Been Like?

The attitude of Oklahomans towards medical marijuana in 2019 is mostly positive. The state’s ethos has traditionally been one of independence. Oklahomans do not like to have too much governmental interference in their affairs. Freedom from big government is an important and engrained value in Oklahoma. This attitude has allowed one of the most liberal and non-intrusive MMJ programs in the country to come into effect very quickly.

There are fewer rules and regulations in the Oklahoma MMJ program and a lot of freedom for patients, medical professionals and, the industry to choose how they operate in the MMJ space.

Oklahoma has even been called the “wild, wild West” of the MMJ world!

Will MMJ Stay Legalized in OK?

The 2019 MMJ laws in Oklahoma are very forward-looking and liberal. The state has caught the MMJ ball and is running with it with the gusto of an Oklahoma Sooners running back charging toward the Texas Longhorns’ end zone! Given the speed at which the program has been rolled out, and the enthusiasm of local businesspeople, physicians, and patients, it is very difficult to imagine any backtracking happening on the part of local politicians or legislators.

How Does Legal MMJ Affect the Push for Legalized Recreational Marijuana in OK?

While MMJ is now well and truly legal in Oklahoma, recreational marijuana is still illegal. An OK MMJ card does not qualify a person to obtain cannabis for recreational purposes.

Given the relative flexibility of Oklahoma’s MMJ laws – medical cannabis is available for any medical condition that a medical professional deems it will be helpful – it is possible that the push to legalize recreational cannabis in the state may lose its potency.

However, it is also possible that once Oklahomans get accustomed to having plentiful MMJ, that they will decide that cannabis is harmless and decide to legalize recreational use.

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It’s unknown what the approach to legalizing recreational marijuana will be like, but for the meantime, those wishing to use medical marijuana in Oklahoma have it pretty good.

How Can People Get MMJ in Oklahoma?

It is relatively easy to get MMJ in OK. A patient only needs to have a consultation with a medical professional. This can be done very quickly and easily online. There is no formal list of qualifying medical conditions for use of MMJ in Oklahoma. A medical professional can authorize MMJ use for any medical condition that he or she believes would be improved by the use of medical marijuana.

An OK MMJ card can be used in any dispensary in the state. There are currently plenty of dispensaries in Oklahoma – 1,500 at last count, and rising! Home cultivation of MMJ is allowed in the state.

So, legal MMJ was slow to arrive in Oklahoma. But when it came, it came with a bang! Oklahomans have embraced the MMJ revolution, but now they are lucky to live in a state with one of the most progressive and liberal MMJ programs in the entire United States.

When Will Marijuana Be Legalized In Oklahoma?

One of the most pressing debates of our time surrounds the legalization of marijuana, and while many states are making progress, some still haven’t taken the full leap. Oklahoma recently allowed for medical marijuana – but when, if ever, could we see marijuana legalized in Oklahoma fully, and how would this affect MMJ?

MMJ Laws in Oklahoma

Let’s start with the basics. Is MMJ legal in Oklahoma? The answer is yes – since last year, medical marijuana has been legal in Oklahoma, so long as you have an MMJ card. However, recreational marijuana is absolutely not legal! We’re going to take a look at when complete legalization might happen, how this has impacted other states that have taken the plunge, and what it could mean for MMJ card holders.

Since the legalization of medical marijuana in Oklahoma last year, the reception seems to have been pretty positive, with 151,000 residents having applied for MMJ cards and more than 170 dispensaries licensed. This actually means that Oklahoma has more MMJ cards per capita than any other state.

However, despite the relatively warm reception medical marijuana has received, Oklahoma still seems pretty strongly opposed to recreational marijuana as a whole. In fact, a recent SoonerPoll survey found that 59% of Oklahoma residents would oppose expanding legalization to include recreational use. That said, there are still considerable policy changes being implemented to safeguard medical users – such as the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana and Patient Protection Act, which means that an employer cannot deny work to, discipline, or fire an employee based on the grounds that they are a medical marijuana patient. Nor can businesses fire a patient for a positive marijuana test, unless it has safety implications (such as the operation of heavy equipment).

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Will we ever see marijuana legalized in Oklahoma for recreational use?

What Are The Pros/Cons Of Legal Marijuana In Oklahoma?

There is much debate over whether both medical and recreational marijuana should be legalized in each state, but looking at complete legalization, what are some of the pros and cons that Oklahoma could face?

One of the biggest arguments given for complete legalization is that it will take the marijuana trade out of the hands of criminals. This will lessen the flow of money to organized crime and hopefully reduce violence. Additionally, it means that the money that would have gone to criminals can instead be levied as a tax to help benefit the state and, of course, fund small businesses (like the 170+ dispensaries now in Oklahoma for medical marijuana). Additionally, legalization means less burden on the state, since the number of arrests and court fillings will fall, along with the associated costs. This was clearly seen in Colorado, where marijuana arrests decreased by roughly 52% between 2012 and 2017.

On the other hand, legalization could make marijuana use more prevalent and have a knock-on effect for other crimes – DUIs, for example. This was also found in Colorado, where marijuana-related DUIs jumped from 12% to 15% of all DUIs between 2014 to 2017. Additionally, while having marijuana legalized in Oklahoma would reduce the bureaucracy of unwarranted court proceedings, it would open up a whole new issue of regulation. The overall debate is undoubtably far more complex than this, but is often focused around recreational use. The use of medical marijuana in Oklahoma is far more stable, but could this be changed by complete legalization? 

How Could Full Legalization Affect MMJ?

Complete legalization will of course make marijuana more ubiquitous in the state, but the real impact on MMJ card holders would be minimal. This is because the restrictions and options for card holders would probably remain the same, giving you the same benefits under complete legalization as you have now. Some of these include being able to use reputable dispensaries to acquire the best products for your condition as well as not having to pay tax on medical marijuana, which you’d likely have to do for recreational marijuana. Furthermore, the age restrictions would vary, with an MMJ card allowing anyone over to 18 access the products they need – not so likely with recreational marijuana.

How can you get an MMJ card in Oklahoma?

Whether we see marijuana legalized in Oklahoma entirely or not, the best option for most people will still be an MMJ card due to savings, higher-quality products, and fewer restrictions. In Oklahoma, you’ve been able to apply for an MMJ card since August of last year, and can do so if you suffer from a qualifying condition. These include cancer, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and many more, so first check whether you fit into one of these categories.

If you meet the qualifying conditions, an MMJ card can be procured from your doctor. However, many people opt to get their card online, since it allows you to complete the whole process without the hassle of travel, which can be difficult for many people seeking MMJ. Online applications also allow for instant recommendations once the evaluation is completed by qualified professionals.

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MMJ laws in Oklahoma will stand strong, no matter what happens with recreational legalization.

Overall, medically legal marijuana in Oklahoma has had a pretty positive reception, and with new legislation giving greater protections to MMJ card holders every month, it seems likely that its medical use will only become more common. That said, the state still seems adamantly against the complete legalization of marijuana. Luckily, those who need it can still access it by applying for an MMJ card and using a registered dispensary. Regardless of whether Oklahoma goes for complete legalization, this is still the best option and is unlikely to change.

How Many MMJ Patients Are in Oklahoma?

As more states legalize medical marijuana (MMJ), its usage is becoming more prevalent throughout the United States. This is no more evident than in the great state of Oklahoma, which is quickly becoming one of the more progressive states in the world of MMJ legislation.

Medical marijuana in Oklahoma officially became legal in August 2018. Because MMJ can be used to help alleviate or completely lift some symptoms of many challenging and bothersome health conditions, many people have jumped at the chance to become Oklahoma MMJ patients.

If you’re wondering how many people use MMJ in Oklahoma, the answer is about 151,000 (which ends up being about 3.5% of the state’s population). Since coming into effect, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (or OMMA) has been swept away with how many applications they’ve been receiving (sometimes up to 3,500 a week!). Out of the 33 states that have some form of legal MMJ legislation, Oklahoma has quickly become one of the biggest, making it the state with more MMJ patients per capita than any other state. According to some accounts, there are around 3.5 million total MMJ users throughout the whole country. In 2018, states with similarly large numbers include California (around 900,000 MMJ cardholders), Michigan (around 269,000), and Florida (around 108,000).

Because the demand for medical marijuana has grown so significantly, Oklahoma MMJ patients have helped to spur a growth in the number of dispensaries as well (around 1,500 dispensary licenses have already been approved). Furthermore, the increase of Oklahoma MMJ patients meant additional legislation needed to be passed. In August 2019, OMMA will institute more changes that were brought about recently by lawmakers. First, Oklahoma veterans with a 100% disability will only pay $20 for their MMJ card (versus the standard $100 fee for other applicants). Second, law enforcement will now have electronic access to all information found on an individual’s MMJ card (which includes a headshot picture, expiration date, and unique 24-digit ID). There will also be changes to the state’s programs that have to do with laboratory testing, electronic tracking systems, and any kind of short-term licenses.

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The number of MMJ patients in Oklahoma is steadily growing.

The rest of the regulations for medical marijuana in Oklahoma will be upheld. These include your ability to possess specific amounts of marijuana for medicinal purposes. You may have:

  • Up to 8 ounces of marijuana in your home
  • Up to 3 ounces of marijuana on your person outside of your residence
  • Up to 1 ounce of concentrated marijuana
  • Up to 72 ounces of edible marijuana (also known as edibles)
  • Up to 6 mature plants
  • Up to 6 seedling plants

There are consequences if you don’t have a legitimate MMJ card. Without one, you could get a fine-only misdemeanor charge (for having up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis). When deciding where to buy MMJ in Oklahoma, remember that you can purchase from state-licensed dispensaries only (you’re not permitted to purchase from a dealer or from another MMJ cardholder.) You also have the option of cultivating and growing your own marijuana plants, as long as you follow the restrictions listed above.

MMJ patients in Oklahoma can qualify for an MMJ card if they suffer from a variety of medical conditions. Many people have found that their symptoms improve or are less prominent with the use of medical marijuana. Some of these qualifying conditions can be:

  • Chronic pain
  • Cancer (and other terminal illnesses)
  • Seizure disorders
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Crohn’s disease

People who have symptoms of severe nausea, spasticity, muscle spasms, and inflammation can also potentially benefit from using MMJ. In order to apply for an MMJ card in Oklahoma, you are required to be evaluated by a physician who can validate your medical condition and determine that you could benefit from using MMJ products. If you don’t have a trusted medical professional in your life, you can always use the services of MMJRecs. They can connect you virtually with a licensed physician who can help you complete your application. This can be a great option for people who find it tough to leave their homes to make it to in-person doctor appointments.

If you’re interested in joining the growing number of Oklahoma MMJ patients, you can quickly get started on your application, which can be found on the omma.ok.gov website. The application requires you to provide some information such as your name, residence and mailing address, date of birth, telephone number, email address, and patient signature. You’ll also need to include a copy of the Adult Patient Physician Recommendation Form that your doctor needs to fill out with their information (they’ll also need to sign it.) In order to show that you’re an Oklahoma citizen, you also must show proof of residency. This can be with a digital, color copy of one of the following:

  • Oklahoma driver’s license
  • Oklahoma ID card
  • Oklahoma voter identification card
  • A utility bill for the calendar month preceding the date of application (cell phone or Internet bills are not valid)
  • A residential property deed
  • A current rental agreement for residential property
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Applying for a card to use medical marijuana in Oklahoma is a simple process.

To complete your application, OMMA also needs you to provide proof of identity. This can be with your driver’s license, ID card, U.S. passport, or tribal identification card. Finally, you’ll need to submit a clear, color, full-face digital photograph of yourself.

Your application will cost $100, unless you’ve covered by Medicaid (SoonerCare) or have Medicare – then your fee will only be $20. After you submit your application online, OMMA will review it and send out an official letter if you’ve been approved. This should happen around 14 days from the time you sent in your application. MMJ cards are valid for two years. After your two years is up, you will need to submit a brand-new application with the help of a physician again.

Join the growing number of people experiencing the benefits of medical marijuana in Oklahoma, and apply for your very own card today!

Now That Recreational Marijuana Is Legalized, What Does That Mean For MMJ Patients?

Marijuana in America is a tale of two strains. On the one hand, there is medical marijuana, or MMJ for short, which has been gaining traction as a progressive new health care option for the last two decades. On the other hand, there’s recreational marijuana, which has recently seen an upsurge in support, and has been legalized in nine states and Washington D.C. The question on many users’ minds, especially MMJ patients, is do they hurt or help each other? And while it might be still too early in the game to say definitively, we can make some educated guesses based on the states that have incorporated both so far.

Recreational marijuana is set to have its biggest year in 2018. It started out on the wrong foot, when President Trump’s Department of Justice, headed up by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, announced that it was repealing a key Obama-era memo that prevented federal meddling in each individual state’s marijuana laws. Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, meaning that the feds can still come down hard on the drug, even in states where it’s legal to use it recreationally.

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Many MMJ users might be wondering how newly introduced recreational marijuana laws affect them.

However, as with much of our current administration, the rescinding seemed to amount to posturing and nothing more. There is little evidence so far that the government will do anything to combat marijuana on a federal level; it seems content to leave it well enough alone in states that have already legalized the drug. If you think it seems contradictory that the drug can be prosecuted on a federal level while legal on a state level, don’t worry; the majority of the Justice Department might just think so too. Federal prosectors around the country released vague statements soon after the rescinding, stating that there would be no new crackdown in recreationally legal states.

This is great news for California, the state that opened the world’s largest legal marijuana market to date on January 1st. California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana way back in 1996. Since that time, it’s always had a remarkably liberal policy towards marijuana in general, and cemented that status on November 9th, 2016, when it took the plunge and made recreational marijuana fully legal too. The state gave itself fourteen months to get the legislation together and prepare its citizens for a full move to legality, culminating in the January 1st, 2018 deadline.

Though California was certainly not the first state to legalize marijuana recreationally, it is definitely the most important yet. The state constitutes the world’s sixth largest economy, and of course, is the largest state in the U.S. Some four hundred businesses were approved to licence, and many cities all over the state have passed laws allowing local businesses to sell marijuana. Despite this, there have been some teething problems with the new legislature, and it’s with these discrepancies that we can measure the impact of recreational marijuana against medical marijuana.

Essentially, despite all the good will in the world, California is not ready to implement such a large recreational program of marijuana. Medical marijuana has been legal for 22 years, and although it’s largely been smooth sailing, there are still some lingering issues. It’s a tall ask for a state to bring together a previously black market industry (which, despite being a black market, is undoubtedly huge), and signs are that it’s not as straightforward as some in government would have hoped. For a start, every city in the state has to come up with its own distinct rules on what exactly can be sold and where, and to what degree. This makes for a confusing situation, as there’s no one rule to bind them all.

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Marijuana laws for both medical and recreational use still differ from state to state.

In terms of MMJ patients who might be worried that their medical marijuana ID card is invalid because recreational marijuana is legalized, there’s a simple answer: don’t be. MMJ, procured from licenced dispensaries, is still the safest and most effective way to alleviate the symptoms it has been prescribed to you for. Your doctor will know which strain is best suited to your particular ailment. It’s not a good idea to attempt to self-medicate, nor is it a sure thing that all MMJ strains will be legally or immediately available in a recreational capacity.

As if to underline the importance of MMJ, the government of California has introduced a sales tax break to medical marijuana patients, indicating its continued commitment to the MMJ cause and legislature. If we take what’s currently happening in California as a microcosm for the whole of the U.S. we see that MMJ and recreational marijuana will undoubtedly continue to co-exist simultaneously, and even benefit from each other as they do. While the future is a little cloudy, especially when it comes to the number of states that have legalized medical but not recreational marijuana, there is no doubt that both strains will continue to exist harmoniously in the U.S. for a long time to come.