On June 26, 2018, Oklahoma State Question 788, the Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, was on the June primary ballot, instead of being presented with the general election in November. The strategy backfired on Governor Mary Fallin who believed the measure would be soundly defeated since the state marched in lockstep with the federal government and the Republican-controlled Congress. The marijuana mandated passed overwhelmingly despite opposition from law enforcement, doctors and clergy. The “Yes” vote supported measures to legalize licensed cultivation, use, and possession of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The ballot question received 57 percent support and established one of the nation's most liberal medical marijuana laws in one of the most conservative states. The support by the general public was a shocker, especially since the conservative branch of society demanded determent and punishment for simple use of marijuana. They attempted to influence the Oklahoma State Board of Health to impose severe restrictions, such as banning smoke-able pot and requiring a pharmacist at every dispensary. Under the guidance of Timothy E Starkey, M.B.A. - President and Edward A. Legako, M.D. - Vice President, the agency enacted harsh restrictions, such as banning smoke-able pot and requiring a pharmacist at every dispensary. The public was outraged. The voters demanded a full investigation of Starket and Legako. The Board quickly reversed its stance when Attorney General Mike Hunter issued a legal opinion that the board had gone too far.
In a month, the state's new Medical Marijuana Authority has receipts over $7.5 million in registration fees from patients, growers and dispensaries, not including 7 percent sales tax on marijuana sales. Typically, a rollout of statewide medical and recreational marijuana programs is a slow grinding process that can take years; not so in Oklahoma, which moved with lightning speed once voters approved medical cannabis in June. Farmers and entrepreneurs are racing to start commercial grow operations, and the state is issuing licenses to new patients, growers, and dispensary operators at a frantic pace. Retail outlets opened just four months after legalization.
By contrast, voters in North Dakota, Ohio and neighboring Arkansas approved medical pot in 2016 but have yet to see sales begin amid legal wrangling and legislative meddling. Part of the noise is flowing from Washington to show down the enthusiasms. Oklahoma is primarily a red state with Republicans demanded more government controls. But the average citizen doesn't believe in the wall, federal meddling or government intentions to control instead of governing by consensus. Indeed, unlike virtually every other state, Oklahoma officials created no list of qualifying medical conditions for people to get medicinal marijuana. That has prompted a flood of applications for personal licenses to purchase marijuana. Since August more than 22,000 have been approved, and thousands more are in the pipeline. There are now 785 licensed dispensaries. Some small Oklahoma towns have as many as a half-dozen. Norman and Stillwater, the state's two largest college towns, have 45 combined. More than 1,200 licensed commercial growers, and in a product with high-tech growing techniques that once produced produce tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, and other vegetables are now cultivated hybrid cannabis in greenhouses.
Even members of law enforcement, who were among the most vocal opponents, appear to accept the public's attitudes about marijuana. Indeed, Washington has taken notice and is finding it more challenging to represent the majority of the voters with antiqued ideas.
The progressive programs engineered in Oklahoma are voter-centrist that will have national implications.