Emotions run high during medical marijuana discussion at Canadian County GOP meeting

By Chris Eversole,

Staff Writer

Canadian County Sheriff Chris West and District Attorney Mike Fields had little company when they spoke in opposition to State Question 788, which would legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma, at a Republican forum on Tuesday.

Not only were they challenged by medical marijuana advocates, but also they faced challenges from Canadian County GOP Chair Andrew Lopez and State Committeeman Mark Thomas.

The county Republican Party sponsored the forum, which brought a standing-room-only crowd to the community room of the Mustang Police Department.

Despite their differences, both sides said they respected the other side.

West and Fields said that the initiative, which will appear on the June 26 primary election ballot, was loosely written.

It is not specific about what conditions would qualify for marijuana dispensing, and it would allow more people than just doctors to authorize its use, they said.

“I fear it will be exploited,” West said.

The proposal would not mandate quality control of marijuana growers, and some tainted marijuana could be dispensed legally, he added.

Fields said he worried about legalized medical marijuana leading to more people “getting in the grip of addiction.”

But Lopez and Thomas from the Republican Party took a libertarian position, saying that the state is interfering with personal liberty in outlawing marijuana.

“We (the state) are the manifestation of stealing property and assaulting people’s liberties,” said Thomas, the state committeeman.

Fields, who was sitting next to him, said he felt like this statement was aimed at him and that he felt isolated at the meeting.

Later in meeting, a member of the audience said that isolation the district attorney felt was like someone feels when he’s been arrested on a marijuana charge.

“You get arrested for having a half ounce, and everyone turns on you,” the man from the audience said.

Norma Sapp, the executive director of the Oklahoma Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said she has been working for 29 years on marijuana reform.

“Too many families have been gone through the hell of having family members locked up in a cage,” she said.

Jimmy Shannon of Ambary Health in Norman spoke about his experience distributing cannabidiol, or CBD, a form of marijuana that does not produce a high and is legal in Oklahoma.

He noted that it treats many conditions. “It is not government’s place to tell us how to manage our health care,” he said.

All of the dozen or people who asked questions or stated their viewpoint spoke in favor of the state ballot issue.

Sheriff West said that he would follow the law if the proposal passes.

“I will protect the will of the people,” he said.

He noted that some members of the public have talked to him about their support of the issue.

“They say they like to smoke dope and it should not be in the shadows.”

Fields, the district attorney, noted that he is a state leader in using drug court and other diversion measures to help people with drug addictions.

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