NORMAN — Efforts to make marijuana available for medical reasons in Oklahoma are still alive, despite legislative defeat of such matters, the director of the state Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control said Thursday.
“I can tell you there’s a big push out there, and it’s bigger today than it was yesterday,” Darrell Weaver told the Norman Rotary Club.
He said legalizing marijuana for any reason sends the wrong message to young people. Colorado, which legalized marijuana, has a higher rate of youth marijuana use. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia allow marijuana use for medicinal purposes.
Senate Bill 573 — authored by Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Oklahoma City — was introduced last year and was assigned to a Senate committee, but it never received a hearing.
“We’ve got so many drugs out there now. We’re just a drug infested society,” Weaver said. “We don’t need to put any more out there.”
He said marijuana is a gateway drug and said every drug user he has interviewed said they began with marijuana.
He said besides marijuana production, the state’s drug problems range from methamphetamine production and use, Hispanic drug cartels and prescription drug abuse.
Meth makers have moved to rural areas where there are fewer law enforcement officers.
“The drug cartels are here,” he told Rotarians, adding that violence among drug cartels in Mexico spills over into Oklahoma.
Weaver, an agent since 1987 and the bureau’s director since 2006, said there has been an 180 percent increase in drug overdose deaths since 2001. The majority of those are from prescription drugs.
He said Oklahoma leads the nation in prescription drug use per capita and is ninth highest in prescription drug overdose deaths.
“It’s truly killing Oklahoma,” he said. “We believe there are more than 300,000 Oklahomans with a prescription drug problem. There’s people in this room with a problem.”
Weaver said the agents and law enforcement officers are on the front lines of evil each day.
“It’s never-ending, the crises we deal with on a daily basis,” he said. “We have homeland terrorists and we have hometown terrorists. They are the criminal element that wants to destroy the good in our communities.”