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Oklahoma conservatives’ views on medical marijuana evolving

Pastor Danny Daniels poses for a photo in front of his Better Life Community Church in Lindsay, Okla., Friday, June 15, 2018. Daniels is among a growing group of traditionally conservative Republican voters who have shifted their position in favor of medical marijuana and who could ensure passage on Tuesday of the first medical marijuana state question on a ballot this year. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

LINDSAY, Okla. (AP) — Danny Daniels, an evangelical Christian in the rural Oklahoma town of Lindsay, is reliably conservative on just about every political issue.

The 45-year-old church pastor is anti-abortion, voted for President Donald Trump and is a member of the National Rifle Association who owns an AR-15 rifle. He also came of age during the 1980s and believed in the anti-drug mantra that labeled marijuana as a dangerous gateway drug.

But his view on marijuana changed as his pastoral work extended into hospice care and he saw patients at the end of their lives benefiting from the use of cannabis.

“Some people said I couldn’t be a pastor and support medical marijuana, but I would say most of the people I know, including the Christians I pastor, are in favor of it,” said Daniels, pastor of Better Life Community Church in downtown Lindsay, a rural agricultural and energy industry town about 50 miles (80.5 kilometers) south of Oklahoma City.

Daniels is among a growing group of traditionally conservative Republican voters in Oklahoma who have shifted their position on the topic. Their support for a medical marijuana measure on Tuesday’s ballot could ensure Oklahoma joins the growing list of states that have legalized some form of pot.

It’s the first medical marijuana state question on a ballot in 2018, and Oklahoma’s vote precedes elections on marijuana legalization later this year in Michigan and Utah. Michigan voters will decide whether to legalize recreational pot while Utah is considering medical marijuana.

Among the reddest states in the country, Oklahoma has for decades embraced a tough-on-crime philosophy that includes harsh penalties for drug crimes that has contributed to the state now leading the nation in the percentage of its population behind bars.

But voters’ attitudes are changing. Two years ago Oklahomans voted to make all drug possession crimes misdemeanors over the objection of law enforcement and prosecutors. When one GOP senator discussed adding exceptions after the public vote, he faced an angry mob at a town-hall meeting.

Oklahoma’s State Question 788, the result of an activist-led signature drive, would allow physicians to approve medical marijuana licenses for people to legally grow, keep and use cannabis. The proposal outlines no qualifying medical conditions to obtain a license, and an opposition group that includes law enforcement, business, political and faith leaders launched a late, half-million-dollar campaign to defeat it, saying it’s too loosely written.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, who typically defers from commenting on pending state questions, recently expressed reservations about the question, saying it’s so broadly worded it would essentially allow recreational use of marijuana. If approved, Fallin said she intends to call the Legislature back to a special session so that a statutory framework could be approved to further regulate sale and use.

Bill Shapard, a pollster, said support for medical marijuana has been consistently strong during the five years he’s surveyed likely Oklahoma voters. Not surprisingly, Shapard said young people, Democrats and independents overwhelmingly support it.

But he said about half of self-identified evangelicals, churchgoers and those over 65 also endorse medical cannabis.

“When you can get a large majority of the Democrats and independents and a third to a half of Republicans to support you, you can get anything passed in Oklahoma,” Shapard said.

Joanna Francisco, a longtime Republican voter and self-described evangelical, said the issue of medical cannabis “should appeal to everyone who calls themselves a pro-life conservative.”

“If you’re a conservative, you should also be opposed to the state spending exorbitant amounts of money on prosecutors and law enforcement to keep this medicine out of the hands of people who might need it,” said Francisco, 49, who holds regular Bible studies in her Tulsa home.

At Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 382 in El Reno, a conservative suburb 30 miles (48.3 kilometers) west of Oklahoma City, many of the regulars don’t like the idea of legalizing marijuana, even for medical reasons. But attitudes are changing, said 73-year-old Bill Elkins, a disabled Vietnam veteran who volunteers at the post.

“I’ve got mixed thoughts on that,” said Elkins, a Republican who said his daughter benefited from taking cannabidiol oil, a non-intoxicating form of cannabis, for nerve pain. “Right now I’m on the fence.”

Jack Hodgkinson, 71, a Vietnam veteran and supporter of Trump, said he doesn’t have a problem with the medical use of marijuana and plans to vote for it.

“I’ve never messed with any drugs, marijuana or anything like that,” Hodgkinson said. “But if it helps people who need it, I’m all for it.”

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  • Oklahoma evangelicals already have abortion, gays, and That Black President to demonize. Three works of Satan is enough, they don’t need another one.

  • Colorado has already spelled out everything for the Oklahoma voters. The known consequences of a “Yes” vote are clear already, and there will be no Do-Overs, no take-backs, if voters say “Yes.”

    Pastor Danny got nothing to lose. Oklahoma parents got something to lose.

    On Tuesday, Oklahoma voters are actually voting on:

    ** 100% recreational MJ, permanently.

    ** Large “gold rush” influx of experienced Drug Dealers, Gang Guys, and even Cartel Reps. Permanently. The skimpy Oklahoma budget won’t even get them all located & registered, let alone monitoring & policing them.

    ** The “dispensaries” that obey the regulations, red tape, and state taxes, will have bigger MJ prices. So the cheaper illegal dispensaries will get lots of Oklahoma customers.

    **Distance regulations keeping MJ dispensaries away from public schools will be ignored by most Drug Dealers & Gangs. High schoolers will be openly, actively marketed (“this MJ candy is a Wellness Product, try some today”, just like Colorado.

    **And that marketing will seiously succeed with the kids, just like in Colorado. Gateway drug, folks.

    Pastor Danny got nothing to lose.
    Oklahoma parents got something to lose.

  • Oklahoma conservatives couldn’t be bothered to care about adequately educating their children, clean drinking water, or keeping its government adequately funded. So who cares what they think about medical marijuana?

  • Too bad Evangelicals didn’t have enough sense to “evolve” against high-end tax cuts. FINALLY going a little left is good, but the biggie flew right by them while they were having nightmares about gay wedding cakes.

  • Hate to burst your bubble, but Colorado marijuana use among kids is down since legalization.

  • Its not like he ever posts anything based on facts. Its just rehashing the conservative party line. Especially since racist Keebler Elf cosplayer Jeff Sessions has declared MJ to be a threat to humanity at large.

  • Are booze and tobacco legal in OK? Both account for more morbidity and mortality than pot.

  • Unfortunately, your statement is simply not true. Denver Post story by David Migoya, 12-22-17, says:

    “In a survey this year by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a federally funded agency that coordinates drug enforcement activities in a four-state region,
    86 percent of Colorado resource officers said they believe marijuana use among students has risen dramatically. That’s up from 82 percent the previous year.”

    More information at this link:

    https://www.denverpost.com/2017/12/22/police-across-colorado-questioning-youth-marijuana-use/

  • You’re the guy who ostensibly watches carefully for links, so maybe you can help Mr. Thin with the link I just gave him. Maybe.

    Or perhaps you’d like an MJ link to refute on your own, yes?

    (Now THIS link is different. It has all the stinky mess — and I do mean a total dogpooped MJ mess — that you want, in a quickie bullet-list summary. Please enjoy!)

    kgov.com/negative-effects-of-marijuana-pot-research-shows-cannabis-is-harmful

  • I have seen you post stuff that was debunked months if not years ago. Facts are of little concern. That being said, I couldn’t care less what OK conservatives think of MJ.

    They can’t even be bothered to care about basic things in their state like keeping it from descending into a developing world crapsty.

  • Funny, I see you post the same things repeatedly AFTER they’ve been debunked repeatedly.

    Pot calling the kettle black?

  • As a sufferer of multiple sclerosis for the past 20 years, medical THC will eventually become my main option to deal with crippling spasticity and painful neuropathy. My kidneys and liver are under moderate strain from the variety of chemical medications that keep me semi productive. The state of Kentucky has placed one prominent neurpothay medication on a more confined schedule which means I have to increase travel to renew prescriptions…from the VA.
    This man’s exposure to the mind numbing pain suffered by hospice patients has ripped the blinders from his eyes. THC allows them more lucid moments with family members before they succumb to their conditions…and the narcotic infused fog under the standard end of life treatment.
    Now he needs exposure to children and older people who suffer from uncontrolled epilepsy and organ failure from massive doses of pharmaceuticals. He can start with familiarizing himself with Charlotte Figi and her journey toward a renewed quality of life.

  • Even South Carolina has lawmakers working on a medical marijuana bill. Given how Red the state is, I assumed hell would freeze over first. I’m encouraged by Oklahoma. I do know from personal experience many, many people are recreational users, including seniors who started as teens.

  • Who cares? The people in the state who would benefit from medical marijuana and are at the mercy of the Republican lawmakers. Lighten up your hatred a bit – smoke a joint. ?

  • Floydlee – that infrastructure is already in place. You would be shocked at how many people already smoke pot – and as their only drug. I don’t think the numbers will rise that high. I smoke occasionally and that is my only vice. The gateway problem is for those with addictive personalities. I always thought of alcohol as a gateway.

  • At the mercy of Republican lawmakers? Excuse me, but these Republican lawmakers of whom you speak are the very lawmakers the people of Oklahoma elected. You make it sound as though the people of Oklahoma are poor unfortunate victims being held hostage. They’re not.

  • And so Spuddie chooses to punt on this issue without the slightest effort of homework, the slightest effort of engagement?

    Wow. I was honestly expecting a little more oomph this time. You’ve said the word “facts” twice now, which suggested you were interested in maybe coming up with some. Guesssss Not!!

  • Evangelicals are you scared you can’t control a controlled substance? It’s OK. Keep it illegal if you’re so scared about it. People will use the distribution system currently in place. No problem! The DEA can still control it by…what??? Catching about 5 to 10 percent of the product distributed? That’s how it’s currently ‘controlled’. BTW, If you can’t keep it out of a prison, what makes you think you control anything. Either way, people will still get anything they want within a couple of hours. Period. No questions asked. No one carded. No ID’s presented. No taxes collected. And ALL proceeds go into the drug gang’s or Mexican cartel’s till. It’s OK. That’s your way to handle it right? Business as usual. So you think by keeping the prohibition status quo it’s going away. It’s NOT going anywhere; you just kept it UNDERGROUND! Meantime you and I send our hard earned tax dollars to the gov’t to house cannabis growers or users in prison and feed them three square meals a day. Or pay for expensive helicopter missions to harass and chop down one plant hidden in granny’s backyard.

  • Your credibility is already less than nil and your desire to follow an asinine party line is a given. OK has bigger problems than a fictional marijuana addiction epidemic. All of which are the work of conservatives there. Their opinions on any given subject is worthless.

  • Republican lawmakers in OK couldn’t be bothered to keep their state running in an adequate fashion. They earned hostility. Republicans in OK need people to be stoned, if they don’t want to be tarred and feathered.

  • More nonsense. Do something about incredibly addictive tobacco, or very addictive alcohol. Then you might have moral standing on marijuana.

  • English isn’t your first language, is it. OFFICERS and BELIEVE are the apposite words.

  • WHACK! Nasty and typically Christian BobbyJoJack Arnzen Carioca takes another insulting swipe at Spuddie.

    BobbyJoJack, you are obviously being dishonest, even with yourself. You obviously care about what Spuddie thinks, since you reply maniacally to so many of his posts.

  • WHAM! BLAM! Typically Christian nasty BobbyJo Arnzen makes yet another snide swipe at a poster.

  • I’m glad there is some sanity in Oklahoma and from an evangelical preacher. Don’t forget to vote!

  • Again, you’re the one who introduced “no homo”, and then when the conversation discussed orientation, wrote “Once again you’re veering off topic into your favorite obsession.”

    I am willing to admit that is the sort of thing you regularly do, but it’s still weird.

  • This is the toughest aspect, because the personal suffering is real. But THAT’s what the vampire Drug Pushers, Gang Guys, etc, are counting on, to grab wide-open access to tons of drug money AND tons of innocent kids.

    Just like Colorado. Letting the poignant stories of disease-sufferers, do all their dirty work. Exploit THEIR daily pain as a Media Sales-Pitch, and when the voters break, just take over and replicate the Colorado Gold-Rush.

    Science IS exploring alternatives to Medical Marijuana (which has bad side-effects of its own, by the way), Maybe even identify a possible substance that seems to show promise. (It’s called AM1710, see link below.)

    But the vampire Drug Lords don’t care about science, nor about people’s pain. All they know is, Oklahoma voters will say “Yes” or “No” this week, and if they say “Yes,” it’s GAME OVER for Oklahoma parents. There will be no Take-Backs, no Do-Overs, no protecting the high schoolers, no stopping the vampiric Gold Rush.

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150304075336.htm

  • It’s statement, beliefs, concepts like this that will continue to stall the use of a natural product. Drug pushers – big pharma, Gang Guys – big pharma lobbyists, and corrupt politicians have been the main culprits for the decades old delay in sound scientific research of cannabis.
    Until the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) stops peddling panic, aka “refer madness” and The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 is completely abolished for more modern and forward thinking controls, people like me are ALWAYS going to be forced to use illicitly. The Volstead Act failed for an obvious reason yet when an alcoholic screams for help there are many options available for maintaining sobriety. I have no options beyond Big Pharma and cannabis. So, we’re are more that merely “poignant stories”, we are sufferers who deserved safe and effective treatment. I live with the fear that my current drug will trigger a fatal brain infection…while my other meds are toying with my liver and kidney functions. It’s bad enough that I know I can never go on an organ transplant list.

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