Democratic viewpoints on politics, policy and activism

Is Oklahoma coming around on legalization of marijuana?

While there is still strong resistance to legalizing marijuana from current state government leaders, as well as prosecutors and law enforcement in our state, there is evidence that the average Oklahoman is ready to reform the harsh laws that harken back to the War on Drugs of the Reagan era.

In 2016, two ballot initiatives aimed at criminal justice reform passed overwhelmingly, with voters recognizing that putting nonviolent offenders in prison, sometimes for lengthy sentences, is neither effective or financially responsible.

But again, legislators at the Capitol decided they knew better and found ways to squelch the reforms. For now.

Activists are pushing forward with a ballot initiative to allow medical marijuana in Oklahoma, and this time the state’s voters may be ready. But maybe a majority is ready to go even further. The general success of legalization in states like Colorado, Nevada, Washington, Oregon and California, with others allowing medicinal use, has begun to erode the alarmist arguments of the past decades.

Rather than the old saw about marijuana being a gateway drug, I think things have evolved to the point that medical marijuana is the gateway reform. I think it’s time to go for the whole enchilada, and in fact, that discussion is already starting on the federal level, thanks to New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. It might turn out that by the time Oklahoma approves the less controversial approach, the conversation across the country will be well ahead of us.

Well, it wouldn’t be the first time.

But I don’t think the many old fogey pols in Oklahoma will be able to use those outdated arguments much longer and not get laughed at, and they won’t be able to avoid the issue entirely either. Really, the time has come to put this self-defeating drumbeat of doom to rest and listen to the science and the personal experience of millions of users.

Political and community leaders, even in Oklahoma, need to be bolder about taking a stand to bring a saner approach to drug use in general, to stop arrests for possession of small amounts of pot, or growing for personal use or to treat medical conditions. And this is sure to become an issue in 2018 state elections with the question on that same ballot.

Connie Johnson, currently running for the Democratic nomination for Governor, and Joe Dorman, former gubernatorial candidate and currently CEO of Oklahoma Institute for Children Advocacy both were quoted with full or tentative support, respectively, in an August 4 story in The Tulsa World about New Jersey Senator Cory Booker’s proposal for federal level legalization.

Both have been involved in past efforts to allow medical marijuana in Oklahoma. They were interviewed for an August 3 story in the Tulsa World by Siandhara Bonnet about Booker’s bill.

“I believe the federal government should get out of the … illegal marijuana business,” Booker said. “It disturbs me right now that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is not moving as the states are, moving as public opinion is, but actually saying that we should be doubling down and enforcing federal marijuana laws even in states that have made marijuana legal.”

Neither Johnson nor Dorman defended the current approach in Oklahoma, of course, because they are ahead of the curve, and have been for several years. They should not be the ones quizzed, in my opinion. Where do the current crop of candidates for governor and other state positions stand — that’s what we need to know.

It’s time for other state leaders and candidates to acquaint themselves with the realities of our times, and stop promoting easily-refuted claims of cultural calamity. crime, eventual escalation to opiates and other such myths, and support making marijuana legal in Oklahoma for both medical AND recreational use.

A message from Connie Johnson: How to Vote By Mail — and take Oklahoma back

Former state Senator Connie Johnson is an advocate for every progressive cause known, but she has a special calling to increase voter participation, and in particular to increase the use of absentee voting (vote by mail) among Oklahoma Democrats.

Currently running for the Democratic nomination for Governor, Connie sent out this letter recently. Whomever you support in that race, Connie’s advocacy for this tool for increasing turnout is a winning ticket!

Most people don’t know that Oklahoma wasn’t always this way — sold out to the highest bidder, dominated by right-wing extremism, and bankrupted by irresponsible, corporatist leadership. At our formation, we were considered one of the most progressive states in the nation. It was only as recently as 2004 that Republicans took a majority in the House, and then, in 2010, snowballed into a supermajority avalanche.

How did this happen? More importantly, what can we do about it?

Among other things, one of the most successful strategies of the Right is that they push hard for their supporters to Vote By Mail. Traditionally speaking, the candidate who wins the absentee vote wins the election.

The advantages are vast, and the implications for the minority voice are profound:

  1. Never miss an election. Every ballot will be delivered straight to your door three (3) weeks prior to each election, large or small, meaning you will have three weeks to vote instead of three days;
  2. Have time to research. No matter the candidate, state question, or bond initiative — whatever appears on your ballot, you’ll have plenty of time to make an informed decision.
  3. Easily notarize. Your local tag agency or financial institution notarizes ballots for free. If you are disabled, or a caregiver to someone who is disabled, your ballot simply has to be witnessed by two people before sending it off.
  4. Throw a ballot party! Various groups, churches or other community organizations can host a ballot party, with notaries present, and everyone can put two first class stamps on their ballots and send them off all at once; and
  5. Still vote in person if you want! You don’t have to use your absentee ballot — but we are asking everyone to please just sign up! The more people who register to vote by mail, the more successful our movement will be.

Sign up to Vote By Mail at okvotebymail.com. It takes less than 5 minutes. Tell your friends and family all of the benefits. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying something new.
The age of reactionary, defensive strategy on the Left is over. It’s time to get proactive.

It’s time to take our state back.

Welcome to the Movement.

Kind regards,
Connie

OKC Supporters Celebrate the Commutation of Chelsea Manning's Sentence

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The Center for Conscience in Action has been actively involved in advocacy work for Chelsea Manning since 2010 shortly after she was arrested for leaking classified documents to Wikileaks. (She was then known as Bradley.)

In that time, we have organized marches, public forums, vigils, talks, letter-writing campaigns, petition drives, Twitter storms and more for the whistleblower who was born and raised right here in Central Oklahoma. We have written articles and blog posts, tabled, held annual birthday parties, and marched in the OKC Pride Parade. We sent staffperson Rena Guay to attend several days of her press conference in 2013.

Today we celebrate the happy conclusion of our Chelsea Manning project, as President Obama has commuted the bulk of her sentence and she will be released from the Army’s prison at Fort Leavenworth.

The following statement should be credited to Rena Guay:

“We are extremely grateful to President Obama for showing mercy for Chelsea and letting her out early. We believe, as do many military law experts, that the sentence was excessive. And we have always felt a special responsibility and honor in keeping Chelsea’s cause alive in Central Oklahoma, her birthplace and childhood home.”

“There was also the added complication of Chelsea’s diagnosis — by military doctors prior to her court martial — of gender dysphoria. Now, she will be able to get the medical and psychological treatment that is recommended, that the military was neither willing nor prepared to provide, including gender reassignment surgery.”

“Finally, Chelsea will be able to speak for herself in a way she has not been able to before, and to be true to the person she is. We look forward to her many future contributions to the area of LGBT and human rights, as well as her unique creative and intellectual gifts. We also hope to organize one more party for her here — at which she can finally attend in person.”

Photos from some of our many actions for Chelsea.