Oklahoma & Minnesota Marijuana Legalization, Repercussions After Congressional Hearing, Cannabis In Thailand

Oklahoma Baptists Against Recreational Legalization As Advocates Ask For Justice

A few weeks after Kevin Stitt declared a special election allowing Oklahomans to vote on the state's Question 820, which will legalize recreational marijuana if it passes, Southern Baptists in Oklahoma spoke out against the legalization of recreational marijuana, expressing alarm at the "rapid advance and acceptance" of cannabis throughout the state.

A statewide vote on the issue is scheduled for March 7, 2023, to which Oklahoma Baptists, known as the Oklahoma Baptist General Convention, appear to be against the measure. "We believe that states should protect their people from the proliferation of recreational marijuana," Baptist delegates said.

"We pray that Oklahoma will maintain legal barriers between these substances and the communities they devastate and that the church will work with Christ-centered ministries to reach people who are impacted by addiction," Baptist delegates said in a resolution approved at their annual meeting. 

Legalization Means Social Justice: Additionally, advocates for legalizing adult-use cannabis said they were not surprised to learn of Southern Baptists' denouncement, reported the Oklahoman.

Michelle Tilley, campaign director for the Yes on 820 Campaign, said she grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition. However, "our system, the way it is set up, is putting a lot of people in jail for simple possession of marijuana. I think most Oklahomans agree that putting people in jail for simple marijuana use is an idea that is outdated," Tilley added. "We need this industry regulated and we need to give people the resources to do it."

Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action is helping educate Oklahomans on what they will be voting on when they go into the voting booth in March. "Marijuana is here. It has been here, and it's going to continue to be here," said Jed Green, a member group.

Minnesota Governor Believes Marijuana Legalization Could Happen Soon

Meanwhile, Minnesotan voters gave Democrats a majority in both chambers, also re-electing reform-minded Governor Tim Walz.

Now, the governor said the state could pass marijuana legalization reforms "as soon as the next session after the election saw Democrats take control over both chambers of the legislature and Walz was reelected," reported CBS Minnesota.

“It just makes sense. Prohibition didn’t work. We get better regulation. I just mentioned that I think it would be important to recognize [Jesse Ventura], and asked him if he would be there when we get this done,” said Walz. 

House Speaker Melissa Hortman (D) said the caucus supports adult-use cannabis and that she believes lawmakers will pass that bill.

Meanwhile, a 2020 report from the ACLU of Minnesota showed the state ranks eighth in the nation for the largest racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests. The analysis found that Black people in the state are 5.4 times more likely to be arrested than white Minnesotans, despite comparable usage rates.

A Letter Asking For Health and Drug Policy Reform

A coalition of public health and drug policy reform advocates and officials sent a letter to the leadership of a House Oversight subcommittee criticizing the invitation to a cannabis stakeholder organization that receives significant funding from the major tobacco and alcohol companies to testify at a cannabis legalization reform hearing.

The coalition believes that this would encourage legislators in Congress to rethink the idea of modeling legal cannabis regulations on those that already exist, the alcohol and tobacco industries. Also, signatories appreciate the “thoughtful leadership in creating a serious and bipartisan attempt to examine our nation’s federal cannabis laws” but have “deep concern about the influence of the tobacco and alcohol industries on this process, including your own hearing on cannabis decriminalization,” reads the letter, led by the Parabola Center for Law and Policy.

“It is critical that we get cannabis policy right on a national level,” wrote the coalition, which also included members of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition (CRCC), Alcohol Justice, Truth Initiative, Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), among others.

“We risk repeating past public health and regulatory capture mistakes if large conglomerates from the tobacco and alcohol industries are permitted to exert excessive influence over the design a national regulatory framework—and seek to shape policy in the interests of private profit, rather than the public good,” they wrote.

Alabama Mayor's Testimony At Congressional Hearing

Tuesday’s congressional hearings to discuss federal cannabis legalization included testimony from advocates such as Alabama Mayor Randall Woodfin. “I’ve taken action on this issue by using my pardon power to pardon over 23,000 individuals charged with possession of cannabis in the city of Birmingham,” Woodfin said. “I’ve also encouraged our state government to take action moving forward with cannabis, in decriminalization and the expungement of past convictions.”

Moreover, Woodfin told the committee that “prohibition of cannabis has taken far too high a toll on Black and brown community,” also calling for Congress to pass legislation to expunge criminal records for marijuana possession and expand the ability to research cannabis.

He specifically asked that historically Black colleges and universities be allowed to do research on cannabis, reported AL.com. “I’m committed to Alabama’s effort to move forward with a medical cannabis program, but I will also urge Alabama to go a step further in providing for adult recreational use for many other reasons.”

Thailand Public Health Minister About Cannabis Use

In Thailand, the Public Health Minister recently dismissed a plan to return marijuana to Type 5 narcotics status, saying that would fall under the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB). "The opposition should learn more about the context of the proposed cannabis use and change their mindset about it now that the law has been issued," Anutin Charnvirakul said.

According to the Bangkok Post, Charnvirakul said that domestic cannabis cultivation will not increase use among those under the legal consumption age as the plant is harder to use than cigarettes and alcoholic drinks.

The minister has not yet planned to submit a proposal to the ONCB to include the plants on the narcotics list. "Even though we have not observed anything untoward, we are highly concerned about the safety of users," Charnvirakul added.

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Photo: Courtesy of Esteban Lopez On Unsplash

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