Less than 1,000 votes divided Rogers County on the issue of medical marijuana.
The state question legalizing medical marijuana passed by a margin of 56.8 percent to 43.16 percent across the state. The margin here in Rogers County was a little narrower. When all was said and done a total of 13,010 voters, or 51.89 percent, were in favor of the legalization.
Less than 1,000 votes made the difference, though.
A total of 12,060 voters, representing 48.11 percent, said no.
Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton was among them.
Walton has gained a reputation with his opposition of the state question.
The morning following the election, Walton said he was disappointed in his fellow voters.
"I certainly am firm on my beliefs on what this will do to quality of life. I don't want to be the guy that said I told you so, but I told everybody so on this," he said. "I think there are three groups that voted yes on this: The ill-informed that will learn they were poorly informed or believed the wrong TV news story. The guy that is going to get monetary rewards from this. And pot heads that just want to smoke weed."
Walton said he knew going in that "the guy that has his hopes focused on getting rich" wouldn't be persuaded to change his mind.
"The guy that loves to smoke weed, we're not going to change his mind," Walton said. "We did make honest effort to educate the hard working good ol' boys and girls that care about quality of life and I don't think there are enough of those paying attention to it. I believe people slept through something that they'll be sorry they did."
Walton said he predicts legislators will be making a trip to the capitol to "hash out the problems that have been laid in their lap."
He said, "We'll hear a lot of 'we never thought about that' or 'that wasn't addressed.'"
The burden, he said, will be on lawmakers, legislators and law enforcement.
Walton said he predicts, "you're going to see more people driving under the influence. Whether it's opioids, marijuana or alcohol, traffic fatalities will go up. I want people to pay attention to this article, to the words that I'm saying, and please remember that I fought hard to defeat this. Good, hard working people won't be happy with what happened last night."
Walton added, "We've got a problem with marijuana—today, last year and 10 years ago, it's only gotten worse…We made a gateway drug into a better gateway drug."
He said now, there's not a lot law enforcement can do but wait.
"Until we can get this monster back in the cage, we've lost ground," he said.
Wednesday morning, the Oklahoma Department of Health released a statement saying they are confident they will meet the requirements of SQ 788 regarding the framework of implementation and that the process "will be handled with integrity."
According to their statement, "Emergency rules governing the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority will be considered by the Oklahoma State Board of Health at their July 10 meeting. Application information and requirements will be available by July 26 for all of the defined categories and the agency will begin accepting applications no later than August 25."
“Please do not visit the state or county health department offices with questions relating to medical marijuana. We are still working with limited staff who deliver clinical and other services across the state,” said OSDH Interim Commissioner Tom Bates. “All relevant information and instructions will be provided online.”
The application process will be available at the required time and will be enhanced in the coming months to make it more efficient for all interested parties. It may take some time to fully implement all of the steps recommended in preparation for this new program, but we will continue to work to meet the letter of the law and to protect the health and safety of all Oklahomans.
We have also established a phone number that will provide pre-recorded information for interested applicants. The number is (405) 271-2266.