One of the biggest lies Daniel Zemke hears on a daily basis at his law practice in Telluride, CO is “my weed is the best. It’s organic.” As Zemke explains, no marijuana can be certified organic because to the FDA, it’s an illegal substance.
This balance, between states that vote to allow medical and/or recreational use and the federal government that treats it as a Schedule I substance, is one Oklahoma might have to strike very soon.
State question 788 will appear on the ballot next November, during the mid-term election cycle. The question would legalize marijuana for medical use in Oklahoma with some stipulations.
To read more detail on the measure, go to ballotpedia.org and search “Oklahoma state question 788.”
“A key distinction Colorado had to make,” Zemke put it, “is categorizing the defining the three real branches of the industry: recreational, medical and care-givers.”
Recreational is as it sounds: residents, after a certain age, may consume cannabis products without proven medical need.
Medicinal allows doctors to prescribe marijuana treatments to those with a medical card. Zemke said even in Colorado, it’s still relatively easy to obtain a medical card. Doctors must be convinced that a patient has “severe pain” or other debilitating illness.
Caregivers do not sell marijuana. A caregiver is simply a person who receives payment for providing medical marijuana advice and health advice.
Colorado has the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED), which oversees all rules and regulations for medical and recreational use. This might be something Oklahoma would create as well.
The MED controls licensing, taxing, testing of product, inspection of facilities, taxes and anything else marijuana related. Colorado keeps it tightly regulated.
Currently, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies THC, the active drug in marijuana, as Schedule I. This means it “has a high potential for abuse and/or no accepted medical use.”
As more studies come out showing potential positive effects of pot use, more states nationwide are taking a look at their drug codes. Just in January, the DEA added hemp to the Schedule I list. Hemp has .3 percent THC.
In 2009, the Department of Justice issued the Ogden Memorandum, telling law enforcement nationwide that it was a “low priority” of the federal government to prosecute medical marijuana cases. In short, it cleared the way for more states to make medical legal.
The system still has kinks. One problem that could arise in Oklahoma is the issue of banks handling cash from an industry that’s still federally illegal.
Zemke said that “to combat this, those who deal in marijuana must have the best accountants possible. Document everything.” Legalized marijuana is still a cash-only business.
A large part to consider about medical passing in Oklahoma is the impact on the state revenues. Already this year, Colorado’s state revenues are in excess of $181.9 million. Currently, the Oklahoma legislature is in special session to figure out what to do about the state’s budget deficit.
According to the Colorado Governor’s office: 30 percent of this money goes to youth drug prevention programs, 28 percent to substance abuse treatment centers, and 26 percent to public education in the state.
Zemke showed the audience slides that predict the marijuana industry will grow at a 25 percent compound growth rate through 2021. This “green rush” is comparable to cable TV in the 1990s (19 percent growth) and internet in the 2000s (29 percent growth).
Those figures mean by 2021, legal marijuana in the United States will be a $20.2 billion business.
Lastly, Zemke advised the audience to “sell the picks and shovels.” “Medical marijuana is here to stay,” he exclaimed. “There are already too many states that have turned the tide.”
Above all, Zemke finished with a quote by 2012 Colorado Governor Jeff Hickenlooper, who was governor when recreational marijuana passed in the state. “The War on Drugs was a disaster. It sent millions of kids to prison, gave them felonies when they often times didn’t have violent crimes…I can see why so many people supported it.”
State Question 788 will be on the ballot in November 2018.