Advocates for the legalization of medical cannabis in Oklahoma are hoping that the Sooner State will follow the lead of places like California, New York, and the District of Columbia when they vote on medicinal marijuana in November. Having collected the requisite signatures to get the initiative added to the ballot for 2016, Oklahoma could become the twenty-sixth state to offer pot as a remedy for patients who suffer from ailments like PTSD, glaucoma, and chronic seizures. Meanwhile, after legalizing medical weed in 2014, New York’s Department of Health has some recommendations for expanding the program to help patients who live outside of New York City.
Oklahoma Adds Medical Marijuana To The Ballot In November
While the campaigns for presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have spent the last several months trying to convince people to vote for their candidates, another form of political persuasion was being utilized by the Oklahomans For Health. As reported by NBC affiliate KJRH in Tulsa, the group gathered almost 2,000 more signatures than required by state law. In Oklahoma, they needed at least 65,987 signatures to get any initiative added to the ballot. That is the number equal to 8 percent of the 824,831 votes that were cast for the state’s gubernatorial race in 2014.
Gathering the signatures, however, doesn’t necessarily mean the issue will make it to Oklahoma’s ballot in November. Now that the votes have been counted by the office of Oklahoma’s secretary of state, they will send a report to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. They make the final call on whether or not the signatures gathered are sufficient to add an initiative to the election ballot. At that point, the attorney general of Oklahoma will have five days to approve the ballot title. If the title is deemed compliant, the official word must be given to the press so that the signatures or ballot title can be challenged by the public.
If the initiative can get past all of these legal obstacles, the residents of Oklahoma will be able to cast their vote for legalizing medical marijuana in November.
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New York DOH Wants To Expand Their Medical Cannabis Program
New York’s Department of Health released a report this week with an analysis of the state’s current medical pot program and the department’s recommendations going forward. The DOH highlighted two problems related to the accessibility of prescribed marijuana: location and cost. As reported by NBC affiliate WGRZ, over half of the state’s medical marijuana patients (57 percent) and doctors (61 percent) are from New York City or Long Island. While there are nearly 5,000 qualified patients across the state, some counties like Livingston and Orleans have patient counts that don’t even reach double-digits, since there are no doctors in those counties to prescribe medical marijuana.
As it stands now, the state of New York allows just five companies to run legal growing operations. Those same five companies are allowed to operate four marijuana dispensaries each. With just 20 shops legally available in the state, it’s no surprise that there’s a high concentration around NYC.
The DOH is recommending that New York doubles that to 10 companies and 40 dispensaries in the next two years. The DOH would also like to see nurse practitioners allowed to prescribe THC for qualified patients, as they are already allowed to prescribe other controlled substances. Finally, with prices for concentrated marijuana products easily reaching $50 per milliliter, some patients would be spending nearly $500 every day, assuming the drug isn’t covered by insurance. Making the medicine more affordable for low-income patients is another recommendation made by the Department of Health.
Marijuana Legislation 2016
Oklahoma and New York aren’t the only states trying to make changes to marijuana legislation. In Michigan, where medicinal cannabis is already legal, advocates were hoping to vote on legalizing recreational pot in November. They are currently in a legal battle after several signatures were suspiciously thrown out. In Missouri, something similar happened when they tried to get medical marijuana added to their ballot. Upon review of their signatures, enough were thrown out to keep the initiative off of the November ballot.
However, as previously reported by the Inquisitr, at least nine states will be voting on marijuana this year. Taking things a step further than Oklahoma, states like California, Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Maine will all be voting whether or not to legalize recreational pot in their states. Meanwhile, Florida, Arkansas, and North Dakota are playing catch-up with states like New York, as they will vote in November on implementing their own medical marijuana program. In Montana, advocates are pushing to expand their medicinal cannabis program, which was legalized in 2011.
[Photo by David McNew/Getty Images]