What to expect in Oklahoma in 2018

TULSA -- With the new year comes many opportunities for Oklahomans to have their voices heard.

Voters will have the chance to pick a new governor and also decide whether to legalize medical marijuana.

It will be a busy political season in 2018 with at least a dozen candidates vying for governor.

Gov. Mary Fallin’s successor will inherit the budget crisis facing the state, which is the result of years of falling energy prices and state tax cuts affecting funding for schools, transportation and economic development.

Six republicans, three democrats, and three libertarians are all seeking the job in the Nov. 6 general election.

Also at the forefront is the legalization of medical marijuana.

“The evidence for medical cannabis or medical marijuana being medically beneficial is overwhelming,” Chip Paul, chairman for Oklahomans for Health and an advocate for medical marijuana said.

He describes it as a law for Oklahomans not written by legislators, but by the people.

“Oklahomans really wrote this law for Oklahomans,” Paul said.

It’s a state question tailored to Oklahoma, making it different than the 29 other states and the District of Columbia, which already have medical marijuana programs.

“In Oklahoma your doctor will have to understand what your condition is and how your condition will be treated, just like he does now, but he'll have a new option, which is medical marijuana,” Paul said.

A medical marijuana license in Oklahoma would require a board certified physicians signature.

“He’s basically putting his professional license on the line when he signs your medical cannabis recommendation,” Paul said.

Opponents to the state question argue doctors do not have enough knowledge about the drug to prescribe it, as it's not something taught in medical school. However, proponents say they'll provide training for physicians.

Gov. Mary Fallin has said she'll decide this year whether to schedule the ballot issue in June's primary election, or the November general.

The state will also see a big change in restrictive alcohol laws.

After a years-long campaign to update the laws, voters approved the allowance of wine and strong beer to be sold in grocery stores, effective Oct. 1. 

Some said the change will raise prices for consumers and force liquor stores out of business, meanwhile proponents argue consumers asked for it, and grocers are happy to accommodate.

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