BY RICHARD L. FRICKER
According to the Sooner Poll numbers, 63.7% of those interviewed favor treatment over incarceration for marijuana related crimes and 57.1% favor Oklahoma joining the other 15 states that have decriminalized marijuana to below a felony crime.
The poll was conducted between Aug. 28-Sept. 9. Sooner Poll only interviewed registered voters. The margin of error is +/- 4.9%.
Even with the margin of error it is clear those favoring relaxation of the state’s marijuana laws cut across political, economic, educational, and religious lines.
In the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metropolitan areas, support for medical marijuana was a solid 75%-plus. The treatment option surpassed the judicial solution by 70.1% in Tulsa and 65% in Oklahoma City.
Tulsa respondents support decriminalization by 67.3%, Oklahoma City respondents by 62.8%.
According to Sooner Poll, support for decriminalization was almost evenly split at 47%. Support for treatment as opposed to a judicial action followed the metro area with 59% of respondent support.
Outside the metro areas, support for medical marijuana – while not as strong as OKC and Tulsa – was a solid 66.4%.
State Sen. Constance Johnson, D-OKC, who has introduced a medical marijuana measure at every session but has yet to receive a hearing, told The Observer, “I like the results. This is very telling. It confirms what we’re being told across the state.”
Sen. Johnson’s latest request for an interim study was only recently turned down by the chairman of the Public Safety Committee, Sen. Don Barrington. Citing the study Johnson noted, “The results make you wonder who are these elected officials afraid of.”
NORML Director Sapp said she commissioned the study in hopes it would support Johnson’s efforts with Barrington. But Barrington had already denied Johnson’s request by the time the poll results were available.
Sapp said, “I do hope that the polling results will help legislators feel more comfortable supporting marijuana reform. I always encourage people to contact the legislators. I think a state wide lobby day will be called when the need comes.”
Although encouraged by the results, Johnson cited opposition to marijuana reform from lobbyists from private prisons, pharmaceutical corporations and some law enforcement agencies, saying, “I think they’ve blown a lot of smoke up someone’s butt.”
Interviewers asked: Twenty states now have laws allowing seriously ill patients to possess marijuana for medical purposes with a physician’s recommendation. Do you support or oppose Oklahoma joining these other 20 states?
Strongly support 47.4%
Somewhat support 23.8%
Somewhat oppose 7.8%
Strongly oppose 18.3%
The supporting responses crossed party lines with 68% of the Republicans, 74.6% of Democrats and 68.2% of independents being interviewed supporting medical marijuana.
Interview subjects were also asked: Fifteen states in America have decriminalized the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for adult possession, meaning they would receive a fine rather than be criminally prosecuted and face possible incarceration.
1. Strongly support 34.5%
2. Somewhat support 22.6%
3. Neutral 4.1%
4. Somewhat oppose 8.4%
5. Strongly oppose 30.3%
Again, party lines appeared to make only a marginal difference. Support for decriminalization came from 53.1% of Republicans interviewed, 60.3% of Democrats and 64.5% of independents.
When asked about treating marijuana as a public health issue 63.7% favor treatment over a criminal justice solution. Favoring treatment:
When asked who should decide marijuana policy, the state or federal government, proponents of state regulation registered 81.6%.
In an e-mail reply to questions, Sapp said, “Oklahoma isn’t nearly as RED as we all thought.”
Sapp refers to the state’s criminalization of marijuana as “a 76-year-long war against the people.”
“I doubt,” she wrote, “I will ever have the kind of money it takes to put it to a vote of the people. But if it were to be addressed there? I think lawmakers would be COMPLETELY SURPRISED at the amount of support once people were in the privacy of a voting booth.”
– Richard L. Fricker lives in Tulsa, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. His latest book, The Last Day of the War, is available at https://www.createspace.com/3804081 or at www.richardfricker.com.