OKLAHOMA (KSWO) - A year from now, Oklahoma voters will decide on whether or not to legalize medical marijuana. State question 788 started as a grass roots initiative. If approved, it will force new legislation, programs, and procedures for state agencies, not to mention the impact on the medical community.
"This is not about getting high. This is about saving lives and trying to survive," Ray Jennings, a cancer survivor said.
Ray Jennings from Broken Arrow Oklahoma, and was diagnosed with cancer in 2014.
"If you've never walk that path, it's a rough road," Jennings said.
He said medical marijuana helped him survive treatment. His son was living and going to school in Colorado at the time, so Jennings moved up there to get a prescription. He came back to Oklahoma to finish his cancer treatment.
If you asked him about cannabis before his diagnosis three years ago: "Cannabis was marijuana. The bad drug. It's an evil drug. And I believed that!" Jennings answered.
Jennings was diagnosed with Squmous Cell Carcinoma, the second most common skin cancer. He reached out to medical marijuana advocacy groups like Oklahomans for Health. He wanted to help educate people who are against using marijuana as medicine.
"I try to gently share my experience with these folks," Jennings said. "That they can say well I knew that guy 10 years ago, 20 years ago. Going he NEVER was into that and now he has done a 180-degree flip. Maybe there is something to this."
Jennings met with Chip Paul, co-founder of Oklahomans for Health, and owner of a natural wellness company. Paul helped write State Question 788.
"I'm a very practical person so I think that the way that this will roll out will probably surprise a lot of people," Paul said.
Paul said this proposed law has 4 parts. How patients get a license to use medical marijuana, how growers can farm it, how manufactures will make it into medicine patients can take, and how dispensaries will set up and sell it.
"The state of Oklahoma is not ready for this passage," Oklahoma State Rep. John Paul Jordan said.
Representative Jordan read the state question, and has questions himself.
"What I'm focused on is should this question pass, how do we make sure that the implementation and the will of the voters is actually met," Rep. Jordan said.
An interim study was scheduled to answer some of those questions. Oklahoma State Representatives in the Judiciary Civil and Environmental committee will hear from organizations, experts and state agencies involved with medical marijuana and the state question during a day-long hearing.
That study is scheduled for November 8.
Andrew Freedman, the former Marijuana Coordinator with the State of Colorado who oversaw his state's new marijuana program, said placing responsibility on the right state department is important.
"I would argue that everybody should do what they are already good at doing," Freedman said. "So the department of public health is probably already good at keeping public registries that have to be kept private that have to have some form of confidentially to it."
Freedman adds other departments might be better equipped to regulate growing and commerce.
If passed in Oklahoma, patients will not have to stick to a list of qualifying medical condition to get a marijuana prescription from their doctor. Other states regulate what can be prescribed to treat. But under State Question 788, as its written now, doctors will be able to write a prescription to whomever they want, for whatever condition they decide.
"If you think about if you go to your physician today, and let's say you have severe pain. That physician has to make a decision when he writes that script whether to prescribe you opiates or not," Paul said. "All we're doing is just adding a different decision point. So that physician now would have to make a decision on whether you should be treated with medical cannabis or not."
Lawmakers have questions about the timeline for rolling out Medical Marijuana in Oklahoma. As written in SQ 788, patients can apply for a Medical marijuana license within 30 days, should the ballot question be approved by voters.
Freedman said it is best for states to get their policies and procedures established before any vote on medical marijuana.
"There is reason to say you have to push the government in order to change the way it's doing things, but there is also if you do it too fast, it's not going to be done right and that's going to be a problem," Freedman said.
Rep. Jordan said the information from the interim study next week may lead to a rider bill that will list things that will be put into law if the state question passes.
"Historically, the way that our legislator works, the way government works is it's normally reactionary," Rep. Jordan said. "It's saying this is a problem and this is how we correct that problem. This is something that's in my opinion is a bit unique in the fact that we're trying to be proactive here."