Oklahoma Voters Reject Full Legalization Of Marijuana

The New York Times says the state has “quietly undergone a street-level transformation” when it comes to approving medical marijuana, but on Tuesday, voters turned down the option to fully legalize the drug. Also: stiffer drug penalties considered in North Carolina, paid medical leave in Colorado, and more.

The New York Times:
With a Marijuana Shop on ‘Every Corner,’ Oklahoma Rejects Full Legalization

In the past few years, Oklahoma, long a solid bastion of conservatism, has quietly undergone a street-level transformation when it comes to marijuana. Dispensaries dot the landscape, with more than 400 in Oklahoma City alone. And that’s just for medical marijuana. On Tuesday, voters across Oklahoma opted against going further, according to The Associated Press, rejecting a ballot initiative that would have legalized recreational marijuana use by adults 21 and over. With the vote, Oklahoma joined a number of conservative states whose voters have recently decided against recreational marijuana legalization. (Goodman, 3/7)

‘Tokelahoma’ At The Crossroads

Johnny Teehee was sworn in as police chief of Muskogee in the summer of 2018, barely three weeks after the state passed a referendum legalizing medical marijuana. Nearly five years later, as he patrols the city, he is overwhelmed by the transformation weed has wrought on this struggling eastern Oklahoma town. A block away from the First Baptist Church of Muskogee, where Teehee is a parishioner, is a marijuana grow operation occupying what used to be the central post office. A plot of land Teehee bought with the intention of one day building a house on it now sits next to a 10-acre weed farm. Dispensaries are everywhere — The Treehouse, Big Pappa’s, Blaze-n-Bake, Natural Grass, Johnny D’s. At 420 Main St. in downtown Muskogee is a weed shop emblazoned with a giant mural featuring the likenesses of Merle Haggard and Bob Marley. “We do smoke marijuana in Muskogee,” it proclaims, cheekily refuting the opening line of Haggard’s 1969 redneck anthem “Okie from Muskogee.” (Demko, 3/7)

In other health news from across the U.S. —

NC Senate Considers Stiffer Penalties For Drug Distribution 

As fentanyl overdoses continue to plague communities across North Carolina, the state Senate is considering legislation to increase punishments for drug dealers whose distribution of the synthetic opioid results in an overdose death. A bill that advanced Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee would revise state laws to create high-grade felony offenses for deaths caused by distributing certain controlled substances and doing so with malice. It would also increase fine amounts for trafficking heroin, fentanyl and carfentanil, setting a sliding scaled based on drug quantity. (Schoenbaum, 3/7)

Des Moines Register:
Iowa Senate Votes To Restrict School Bathroom Use For Trans Students

Transgender students would not be allowed to use bathrooms in elementary and secondary schools that align with their gender identity under a bill passed Tuesday by the Iowa Senate. Senate File 482 prohibits people from entering a school restroom or changing room that does not align with their sex at birth. Students would need parental consent to request a special accommodation, such as using a faculty or single-occupancy restroom. (Akin, 3/7)

Anchorage Daily News:
Dunleavy Education Bills Would Restrict Sex Ed, Offer Teacher Bonuses

While education advocates continue to call for increased funding to go directly to Alaska public school districts, Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Tuesday introduced education policy proposals that would limit sexual education and the rights of gender non-conforming students in public schools. “There should never be a case where a parent sends their kid to school, and the child comes back having discussions about things they learned in school that may be a sensitive issue or an affront to a parent’s values,” Dunleavy, a Republican, said while surrounded by a gaggle of conservative education advocates and children on Tuesday. (Samuels and Maguire, 3/7)

The Hill:
EPA Watchdog Knocks Trump Officials Over Weakened Assessment For Toxic Chemical 

The Environmental Protection Agency’s internal watchdog on Tuesday knocked a Trump-era move in which political officials weakened an assessment on the dangers of a toxic chemical. The Office of the EPA’s Inspector General issued a new report that stated political appointees used a last-minute disagreement to take the “unprecedented” step of listing a range of values for the toxicity of a chemical known as PFBS instead of a definitive toxicity level. (Frazin, 3/7)

California Offers Bipartisan Road Map For Protecting Kids Online Even As Big Tech Fights Back 

In California, a Democrat and a Republican figured out how to pass the country’s toughest online privacy law protecting kids. If their experience is any indication, though, federal legislators can expect fierce pushback from Big Tech if they heed President Joe Biden’s call for similar action on a national scale. The law, modeled after legislation in the United Kingdom, will ban websites from profiling users in California under age 18, tracking their locations, or nudging them to provide personal information. It will also require online services to automatically put privacy settings at their highest levels on sites that kids access when the law goes into effect next year. (Kreidler, 3/8)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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