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More Marijuana Is Bad for Oklahoma

By: By US Senator James Lankford (R-OK) and Dr. Kevin Sabet

It is a simple question: will more marijuana in Oklahoma make our families stronger, our streets safer, or our workplaces more productive? The debate for or against increased marijuana access in Oklahoma really comes down to that answer. 


When Oklahomans voted to endorse the growth and distribution of “medical marijuana” in 2018, few people in the voting booth could have imagined the future explosion of marijuana access in Oklahoma. Oklahoma now has more marijuana facilities than Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, combined. But for the marijuana industry—which makes millions off drug addiction—that is not enough. They want more.  


Drug cartels—from not just south of the border, but also Asia—are now deeply ingrained across Oklahoma, operating grow facilities that ship marijuana across the country. Oklahomans often now wake up to read the news about the latest execution-style murder, human trafficking, or prostitution at a grow facility in rural Oklahoma. In January 2023, the Tulsa World reported that about 2,000 licenses for medical marijuana were being investigated because they were suspected of having been either obtained unlawfully or were covering up an operation to sell on the black market. Oklahoma is now the top source for black market marijuana in the nation. So much for the argument that widening legal access to a drug gets rid of the illicit market. 


Thousands of acres of land and buildings are being purchased across Oklahoma by foreign nationals and perhaps even governments to grow marijuana. In fact, two years after medical marijuana passed in Oklahoma, people in the state sold more land to foreign entities than any other state in America. One of this op-ed’s authors introduced a bill, the Security and Oversight of International Landholdings (SOIL) Act, to counter the massive international land grab happening by foreign entities, particularly in western Oklahoma. 


In late 2021, The New York Times reported that Keota, Oklahoma, a small town with about 500 residents, had more than 40 grow facilities. In January of this year, Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry made $90 million in products sold from 2,598 dispensaries and grown from 7,900 growers.  


For perspective, Oklahoma has more marijuana dispensaries than gas stations.


But, again, the marijuana industry still wants more.  


Worse still, childhood use of marijuana has increased in the past five years. In 2022, nationally, 8 percent of 8th graders, 20 percent of 10th graders, and 31 percent of high school seniors reported using marijuana in the past 12 months. It’s clear the multitude of grow facilities and dispensaries has made marijuana easier to access for teens.  


Every Administration from George W. Bush to Biden has defined marijuana as a Schedule I drug because time and time again, research reviews have shown that marijuana still has no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. In fact, according to an August 2022 report by the National Library of Medicine, “Long?term THC use has been associated with the development of psychosis and significant neuropsychiatric dysfunction. Cannabis use in childhood is particularly detrimental as it is a period of crucial brain development and impairs acute neuropsychological functioning.” 


The most tortured claim of the marijuana lobby has been that more marijuana will actually help our kids because the schools will get more tax revenue. Can anyone honestly say that the best thing we can do for our kids is to encourage their parents to smoke more marijuana so their child’s school can have more tax revenue?  


We respect Oklahomans who may disagree with our viewpoint, but we hope everyone will think seriously about how marijuana has negatively transformed Oklahoma in the last few years and ask themselves if more marijuana sold by massive, for-profit companies and foreign cartels will make life better. 


Simply stated: Marijuana does not make our families stronger, our streets safer, or our workplaces more productive.

 

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Dr. Kevin Sabet, a former three-time White House drug policy advisor, is President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM).

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