TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) — NewsChannel 8 viewers had unanswered questions from Wednesday’s State Question 820 town hall addressed by a leader of the State House of Representatives.
Between Facebook and YouTube, viewers asked over 100 questions during the town hall. NewsChannel 8 picked out a few and asked John Waldron (D-Tulsa), the minority caucus vice chair, how recreational marijuana could change Oklahoma.
Waldron began, though, by warning that approving State Question 820 would leave a lot of questions unanswered.
“When the medical marijuana initiative was passed, we in the legislature were not altogether prepared for the very complicated work of putting it into law and regulating it,” he explained. “We’re still catching up. We’re going to have to do that again, should 820 pass.”
“It will be up to legislators to figure out the intent of the voters and design a system that works best for the people of Oklahoma,” he continued. “And that’s going to take years.”
The questions posed by NewsChannel 8 viewers have been edited for spelling and punctuation but are otherwise presented verbatim.
Viewer Gary H. asked, “If passed, will the smoking of cannabis be controlled the same as smoking cigarettes?”
“Cigarettes are subject to a variety of federal laws, not just state,” Waldron answered. “And the federal laws haven’t caught up with the state laws. So no, I think it’s going to be different, and it’s going to be a little bit weird at first.”
Brent B. expressed concern, saying, “It is my understanding that the role lawmakers have in regulating marijuana will greatly increase if this passes, giving them almost total control in limiting dispensaries and grows, making costs increase. Can you address this?”
“We’re going to have to come up with something that works for everybody,” Waldron said, “and it’s not necessarily going to be something that’s nefarious.”
“We’re going to have to develop a smart system of legislation,” he added. “That’s right, a – smart – system of legislation. So let’s just say that’s going to take us a few tries. I think he might be giving us too much credit in our ability to get between an Oklahoman and his recreational cannabis.”
Waldron asserted that regulation isn’t always a bad thing.
“I’m on a highway that has stripes painted down it,” he said, as he spoke with NewsChannel 8 while driving from Oklahoma City to Tulsa. “That’s regulation. I kinda appreciate the stripes!”
Shawn M. wanted to know, “If passed, how will it affect small businesses compared to big businesses in the marijuana industry?”
“One of the things we’ve learned from other states that have gone this route is that it’s very easy for outside investors to take over an industry,” Waldron claimed. “We do want to make sure that we don’t set up a system that allows a few big producers to create monopolies and crowd other people out.”
“And you know how you do that?” he asked rhetorically. “Regulation!”
Then there was Austin M., who asked, “Will recreational cannabis and medical cannabis be classified separately?”
“You could still get a medical cannabis card,” Waldron responded, “and that might be important for employers. But from an enforcement point of view, I don’t think we’d be able to distinguish.”
But with all these potential issues in mind, Waldron had a solution.
“Here’s what you get to do, citizens: complain when you don’t like how things are!” he said. “You complain to us politicians, and we’ll have to fix it.”
Those who missed NewsChannel 8’s town hall Wednesday evening can watch it in full on the station’s Facebook and YouTube pages.