The Journal Record
June 4, 2018
OKLAHOMA CITY – Unlike several other state question campaigns in Oklahoma’s recent history, many of which raised millions of dollars and spent on flashy television ads, those fighting for and against medical marijuana legalization have maintained a lower profile.
State Question 788 will be on the ballot for the primary election on June 26. Although the issue received its election date in January, supporters and opponents have started campaigning relatively recently. One of the top opposition campaigns, SQ 788 Is NOT Medical, organized this spring, after the campaign finance reporting deadline of March 31. Its fundraising record won’t be available until the next deadline passes this month. The top support campaign, Vote Yes On 788, had raised about $15,000 at the time.
A group of medical professionals, law enforcement associations, business community representatives and organizations within the faith community joined together to establish SQ 788 is NOT Medical. Several members within the opposition group said the intent is not to block medical marijuana access in Oklahoma, but this provision specifically. Their stance is that this iteration of marijuana legislation does not place enough restrictions on possession and use, essentially rendering it a recreational marijuana law.
Pat McFerron, a founding partner at CMA Strategies, is representing the group in messaging. He said the group is continuing to raise money, but so far hasn’t spent as much on advertising and other communication. So far, most of the campaign’s work has been with media outlets in newspapers and on television. As funding increases, that could shift.
“We would hope to do more traditional advertising,” he said.
Bud Scott is the executive director for New Health Solutions, a company that consults with corporations and small businesses interested in cultivating a marijuana business. He is helping campaign for Vote Yes on 788. It formed much earlier and raised about $15,000 before the March 31 deadline for first-quarter Ethics Commission reports. The money comes almost exclusively in individual contributions.
The organization has spent almost all of its money on supplies for volunteers or signs for supporters. Those main expenses included highway signs, business cards for organizers and flyers. None of the expenditures reported for the first quarter involved advertising on television or other similar platforms.
Scott said the issue’s grass-roots nature is evident not only in the contributions, of which little to none have come from out-of-state entities and many have come from individuals, but also in the kind of promotion the issue has seen that has been unrelated to the official campaign.
“The amount of grass-roots engagement and support, it’s tremendous,” he said. “You can’t pay for the kind of coverage that is generated organically.”
He said that kind of support – homemade signs and social media usage – would be beneficial any time, but this year it is especially. Because the Republican gubernatorial primary is so heated and several other state offices are up for re-election, ad buys are expensive and they don’t penetrate as far.
Oklahomans for Health garnered enough signatures to put medical marijuana on the ballot in the summer of 2016. A lawsuit surrounding what would be State Question 788’s text was settled in March 2017. Gov. Mary Fallin opted to place the measure on the primary election’s ballot.