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Rally for justice promotes medical marijuana, strategic voting for state

Heide Brandes / Red Dirt Report
Supporters of State Question 788 converged on the State Capitol Thursday night to show support for the legalization of medical marijuana.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – When Juliette Freese’s granddaughter Jaqie was born, she suffered from severe epileptic seizures, the first coming when she was just 5 months old.

Every day, the baby would have 75 to 150 seizures. She took 17 prescription medications a day to control her seizures, but Freese said the medications did a little more than sedate the girl.

“When you looked at her, when you looked into her eyes, she just wasn’t there,” Freese said. “It was like she had no soul.”

Faced with the possibility of major brain surgery, Jaqie’s mother instead took her infant girl to Colorado. On April 14, 2014, Jaqie had her first dose of cannabis oil. Three years later, Jaqie still takes cannabis oil and averages maybe one seizure a week.

“She’s now being fitted with prosthetics to help her walk, she can talk and she’s starting to grab things,” said Freese. “The cannabis oil was the treatment she needed. This little girl deserves the right to live, and we deserve the right to choose what medicine to give her. It’s not the politicians’ right to tell us we cannot give her the medication she needs.”

Freese was among the close to 100 attendees at the Rally for Justice event Thursday evening at the Oklahoma State Capitol on 4-20, or “Weed Day.” In addition to launching a support rally for the legalization of medical cannabis through support of State Question 788, a measure that will likely appear on the ballot in the 2018, rally organizers also focused on other issues that citizens could use the power to vote on.

Hosted by gubernatorial candidate Sen. Connie Johnson, the rally touched on issues like education funding, criminal justice reform, the end of corporate welfare and more.

Sen. Connie Johnson.

William Patrick Jones, an advocate for the legalization for medical marijuana, said SQ 788 was “a long road” of getting signatures to put the question on the ballot.

“As you all know, [former Attorney General] Scott Pruitt challenged us and we had to wait even longer, and more families left Oklahoma as refugees to Colorado, more tax revenue was lost out of the state, and now here we are, months later, and we are facing another budget failure,” he said. “Medical marijuana is our way to alleviate that.”

In August, a petition supported by Oklahomans for Health garnered enough signatures to put legalizing medical marijuana on the 2018 election ballot.

More than marijuana

In addition to supporting legalizing medical marijuana and marijuana use, the Rally for Justice also focused on “anything citizens were concerned about in the state.” A black coffin was present for attendees to fill with cards that listed their concerns. Next to it, a rally supporter stood with a cardboard gravestone bearing the words, “Here lies the Oklahoma Standard.”

The rally was hosted by Johnson, who introduced bills nearly 13 years ago to legalize cannabis oil for medical use.

“This is a rally around all the issues that we feel are being ignored by the legislature in favor of other interests like corporate interests, private interests and any interest that is different from the will of the people,” said Johnson, who announced her candidacy for governor earlier this year.

“This is especially in certain areas like mental health, common welfare, adoption, immigration, cannabis policy, education and we will have a candlelight vigil to mourn the death of education in Oklahoma.”

Johnson focused on speaking on voting strategies and how common citizens could change laws through voting practices.

“4-20 is a good unifying day, but it’s bigger than just cannabis – it’s about voting,” she said. “Voting matters is the tagline. I’m running for governor for the same reason – people deserve someone who has a vision for the people, not the special interests.”

Christina Goeller of Oklahoma City attended the rally with her daughter. She said she attended to show her support for the legalization of medical marijuana.

Christina Goeller and her daughter attend Rally for Justice in support of SQ 788.

“Now more than ever, with my little one, if we needed medical marijuana, I couldn’t imagine having to uproot to get the care she needed,” Goeller said.

State question

Medical marijuana supporters scored a win in March when the Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected Pruitt’s rewrite of medical marijuana SQ 788, something that supporters said “changed the will of the petitioners.”

“We are pleased that the Oklahoma State Supreme Court upheld the ballot title which was circulated while collecting our signatures. We will eagerly await our election date and begin immediately organizing our YES campaign,” said “Chip Paul, co-chair of Oklahomans for Health.

“As we kick off our campaign at the State Capitol on April 20, we urge those who support the measure to join us in calling for lawmakers to lend their support to the cause. Medical marijuana is an issue of grave importance to so many Oklahomans. We move forward with this campaign with the hope that people across the state will stand in favor of this policy that is fiscally and morally responsible.”

Ryan Kiesel, ACLU-OK executive director, said the former attorney general inserted his own personal politics into the process.

“In tilting that the rewrite did not reflect the intentions of the petitioners, the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s opinion has ensured that the intentions of the petitioners and the more than 65,000 Oklahomans who signed their name in favor of medical marijuana are accurately and appropriately represented,” Kiesel said.

“With this victory, we are one step closer to a drug policy that treats people patients rather than as criminals. While we welcome an opportunity to continue to push for a more sensible drug policy that includes the legalization of marijuana for adults sometime in the future, that was not on the table today. Our clients very clearly petitioned to see medical marijuana on the ballot and we are pleased to see their historic effort to give Oklahomans the chance to vote on this issue will move forward.”

Photos by Red Dirt Report's Heide Brandes.

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Heide Brandes

Heide Brandes is an award-winning journalist and editor with more than 18 years of experience....

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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