Oklahoma voters approve medical marijuana despite opposition
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma voters on Tuesday backed the medicinal use of marijuana, overcoming a late opposition campaign from law enforcement and business, faith and political leaders.
State Question 788 , the result of an activist-led signature drive launched more than two years ago, makes it legal to grow, sell and use marijuana for medicinal purposes. The proposed law outlines no qualifying conditions, which would allow physicians to authorize its use for a broad range of ailments — a fact that sparked bitter opposition, particularly from law enforcement.
Under the proposed law, a two-year medical marijuana license would allow someone to possess up to 8 ounces of marijuana, six mature plants and six seedlings, along with edibles and concentrated forms of the drug.
Gov. Mary Fallin said she feared the proposal would essentially legalize recreational pot and said if it passed she would likely call on lawmakers to return for a special session to set up a regulatory framework for medicinal pot.
Oklahoma's is the first marijuana question on a state ballot in 2018, with elections scheduled for later this year in Michigan and Utah. Voters in neighboring Arkansas legalized the drug for medical use in 2016, but Oklahoma is among the most conservative states to approve its use.
In Oklahoma City, Robert Pemberton, 58, said he supported the measure because he believed it's been beneficial in other states that have legalized medical marijuana.
"They've got excess money, and we need that, especially for our teachers," Pemberton said. "I think we need the revenue from it. I think we need the money. Our state's in trouble financially and I think it would really help."
A group called SQ 788 is Not Medical launched a late $500,000 media blitz that painted the proposal as a plan to legalize recreational use of the drug under the guise of medical care.
"This is a bad public health policy that does not resemble a legitimate medical treatment program," said Dr. Kevin Taubman, former president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association and chairman of the opposition group.
Connie Givens, 67, said she voted against the measure because she believes it's written too broadly and could permit recreational use of the drug.
"I think it's not written right. I think it's just so people can get marijuana," said Givens, a Republican in Oklahoma City.
Although Oklahoma has a reputation for being a conservative state, attitudes have shifted sharply on marijuana in recent decades, especially among young people, said Bill Shapard, a pollster who has surveyed Oklahomans on the issue for more than five years.
"I've found almost half of all Republicans support it, so that's going to take an awful lot of money and an awful lot of organized opposition for this to lose on Election Day," Shapard said.
Oklahoma's tough-on-crime ideology also has come at a cost, with the state's skyrocketing prison population consuming a larger share of the state's limited funding. In 2016, voters approved a state question to make any drug possession crime a misdemeanor, despite opposition to that proposal from law enforcement and prosecutors.
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Phoenix has selected Cherokee artist Nathalie Standingcloud’s design for its 2018 holiday T-shirt, which goes on sale July 1 at the Cherokee Phoenix’s office and Cherokee Nation Gift Shop.
In 2016, the Cherokee Phoenix commissioned Cherokee artist Buffalo Gouge to design its initial T-shirt, one that differed from the tribe’s Cherokee National Holiday shirts. For the 2017 T-shirt, the Cherokee Phoenix sought entries from Cherokee artists and chose Daniel HorseChief’s concept. This year, the Cherokee Phoenix selected Standingcloud’s design, which she said features a southeastern-style phoenix shield with a seven-pointed star surrounded by seven gourd masks that represent the tribe’s clans.
Above the design in the Cherokee syllabary are the words “Cherokee Phoenix.” Below the image in English are the words “CHEROKEE HOMECOMING” as well as “2018” and Standingcloud’s signature. Also, the Cherokee Phoenix logo will be on a sleeve.
“I hope when someone looks at this, whether they’re Cherokee or not, that they acknowledge the symmetry and symbolism that makes up the entire design. And if they are Cherokee they can find their clan and feel like they are being represented,” Standingcloud said. “When I started this design I had to draw a phoenix to represent our strong Cherokee people overcoming all that they went through during colonization. I also kept in mind the sacred numbers and symbolism that we use in our culture like the masks and seven-pointed star. I chose simple colors so I could use others to bring out the uniqueness of each clan.”
She said the fact her submission was chosen made her feel “accomplished” and brings “honor” to her family. She added that she plans to submit another concept for the 2019 T-shirt and encourages up-and-coming Cherokee artists to do the same.
“I urge young artist to doodle every day, and just because you don’t finish some amazing, elaborate or perfect piece doesn’t make you any less of an artist,” Standingcloud said. “So I want to tell all the Cherokees out there to have courage and get creative for next year’s T-shirt submission.”
The black shirts are short-sleeved with adult sizes ranging from small to 3XL. The Cherokee Phoenix is also offering a youth medium size this year. The shirts are priced at $20 plus tax each. To order online, visit <a href="http://cherokeegiftshop.com" target="_blank">http://cherokeegiftshop.com</a>.
The Cherokee Phoenix office is in the Annex Building (Old Motel) on the Tribal Complex. The gift shop is also on the complex.
Staff members will have shirts available at the Cherokee Phoenix booths at the Capital Square and Tribal Complex during the Cherokee National Holiday. The Cherokee Phoenix will also have T-shirts featuring the previous two designs at discounted prices at the booths.
The Cherokee Phoenix plans to continue contracting with Cherokee artists to create the annual holiday T-shirts. CN, United Keetoowah Band and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizens who are interested in submitting T-shirt concepts can email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for submissions is midnight on Jan. 1.
For more information, call 918-207-4975 or email <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.
OAKS – The future of a historic parcel of land appears secure as the Cherokee Nation closed on the purchase of the Delaware County property, where clearing had already begun for construction of a chicken farm.
The effort not only saved the property from development but helped galvanize a community that is concerned about poultry operation expansion in the area.
The 60.81-acre parcel, adjacent to the Oaks Indian Mission at Oaks, was purchased to help preserve and protect the area, which also abuts a historic cemetery known as God’s Acre.
The CN closed on the purchase July 2. The tribe said there are no immediate plans for what will be done on the property.
“The tribe believes in protecting sites that are historically significant as well as preserving it for the betterment of our tribal citizens and environment,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “The Cherokee Nation is also stronger for the future when we add land within the jurisdiction of the tribe to our land base.”
Members of the Spring Creek Coalition first raised concerns about potential impacts of the planned poultry operation, which would have housed 300,000 chickens at the headwaters of one of Oklahoma’s most pristine streams.
The community effort soon intensified as people connected with the Oaks Mission and learned more about the historic significance of the site, a recognized arrival location on the Trail of Tears in the 1830s.
Poultry farm operators Tran Tran LLC had cleared land in preparation for building the houses for production for Simmons Foods before many area residents realized what was happening. After environmental attorney David Page of Barber & Bartz in Tulsa contacted Simmons, the operators agreed to halt construction and offer the land for sale.
Spring Creek Coalition member Emily Oakley spearheaded the effort and created a GoFundMe page to raise money for possible down payment on the land if a single buyer had not come forward. The page notes that if a buyer did come forward, the money would go to the nonprofit coalition for preservation efforts. The page was closed this week with just over $9,100 raised.
“It’s super, unbelievably exciting that this worked out the way it did,” Oakley said. “I am grateful that (the Cherokee Nation) got it, incredibly appreciative and relieved. I’m sure whatever they decide to do with it, it will be the perfect thing for that property.”
The history of the site near the Oaks Mission begins with Moravians, a pietistic German sect who settled in North Carolina in the mid-1700s and were the first to do Christian missionary work with the Cherokees. Since 2008 the CN has been supporting work in the Moravian Archives in North Carolina for creation of a book series translation of Moravian diaries, hand-written in old German, that are said to be the earliest and longest-running written account of daily life among the Cherokees.
During the Cherokees’ forced relocation in the 1830s, the Moravian missionaries established a new mission in eastern Oklahoma. Remnants of the Spring House still stand near the present-day Oaks Mission at the headwaters of Spring Creek. The Moravians ultimately closed the mission, but it was reopened as a Lutheran mission in 1902. Today the Oaks Indian Mission is a residential school for children.
The nearby cemetery contains grave sites, many unmarked, of the early missionaries as well as Cherokees who endured the forced relocation.
Oaks Mission Executive Director Don Marshall said he was “almost giddy” at hearing news of the land sale to the Cherokee Nation.
“It’s really incredible, given where things stood just a month ago,” he said. “Our heads are spinning with the turn of events here. We are incredibly happy and grateful.”
Both Oakley and Pam Kingfisher, who created the Facebook group Spring Creek Guardians, said the experience at Oaks has ignited a new awareness about poultry house construction in Delaware County.
Kingfisher said she was out of town when she learned about developments at the site and immediately sent messages about the poultry house plans to Facebook friends.
“I got such a response that I immediately created the group,” she said. Within 24 hours it had 150 members and now has about 380, she said.
People have noticed what seems like an uptick in poultry house construction in Delaware County, with a Simmons Foods poultry production plant expansion planned nearby in Arkansas. People have turned to the Facebook page to share concerns and organize, Kingfisher said.
Both Kingfisher and Oakley recognized Tran Tran and Simmons Foods for being sensitive to the community’s concerns around the Oaks property. With more construction ahead, however, people now have learned that they are not alone in their concerns, Kingfisher said.
“There has been a general uplifting of environmental awareness and awareness about the water and actual things to do and how to be active in positive way,” she said. “We’re not here to take away anyone’s livelihood, but they need to be aware and we need to be aware so we all can co-exist.”
ADA – For 70 years, campers representing more than 50 Indigenous tribal nations from across North America gather for Indian Falls Creek Baptist Assembly in Ada.
This family camp provides Bible classes, training, a health fair, recreation, fellowship and worship services for all ages.
The opportunity to attend with the entire family and people of all ages makes IFC an annual event for many churches. Some campers have attended IFC since childhood and now make it an annual tradition for their children and grandchildren.
Prayer Walk Warriors start the morning early and join the daily sunrise service. Later in the week walkers and runners participate in the annual 5k Hot and Sweaty Run.
More than 500 preschoolers and children attend classes and Vacation Bible School each day and campers 6 to 11 years old attend Children’s Church twice daily. Class sessions for youth, young adults and adults are also offered and vary in topics. A nursery is provided during morning youth and young adult services and evening family services.
IFC officials said they want to meet the needs seen throughout Native American and First Nations communities by providing training that helps campers engage others in their communities. Suicide prevention, literacy training and health classes supplement the Biblical and leadership development training offered to campers. Other opportunities include blood donations and a bone marrow registry at the health fair.
The Silver Fox Fellowship provides a time for senior campers to relax and meet in a cool place, if they are not watching or participating in recreational activities. Highlights during recreation are the watermelon eating contest, youth art contest, Bible drills, children’s Olympics, stickball games and the golden frybread/steaming meatpie contest.
Each day, different Indian Nations are invited to sing traditional hymns in their tribal languages during the worship services.
The 71st Indian Falls Creek meeting is July 29 through Aug. 2. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.IndianFallsCreek.org" target="_blank">IndianFallsCreek.org</a>.
TAHLEQUAH – The United Keetoowah Band will distribute clothing vouchers and gift cards for exclusive UKB students beginning at 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on July 21 in the Education Building at 4547 S. Whitmore Lane.
Students ages 4-12 will receive $100 vouchers and backpacks, while students ages 13-18 will receive $100 gift cards. Students must present their tribal ID card and proof of enrollment or last semester’s report card to receive funds, which can be used at Walmart to purchase items including clothing, shoes and school supplies.
For students who cannot attend, vouchers and gift cards can be obtained by visiting the UKB offices beginning on July 23. Students ages 4-12 will need to visit the Henry Lee Doublehead Child Development Center at 18771 W. Keetoowah Circle. Students ages 13-18 will need to visit the Community Services building at 18263 W. Keetoowah Circle.
District representatives can also obtain cards for students if needed. Parents and guardians can pass along the required verification items and district representatives will sign before returning all items to them.
Disbursement of funds is also not dependent upon income guidelines.
“We don’t income guideline it because it’s a one-time thing. It’s not a monthly program. We don’t do income guidelines, and the only goal of that is to help our children,” UKB Tribal Secretary Joyce Hawk said.
The event coincides with the Keetoowah Strong event that will take place at 8 a.m. on July 21.
Free physicals and haircuts will also be available for children.
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation citizen and a foreman for the Manhattan Construction Group, Kenny Foreman, led a group of CN leaders on a tour of the new Cherokee Casino Tahlequah construction job site on July 12 inside the Cherokee Springs Plaza.
“The projects on track right now,” Foreman said. “We’re looking to be finished up and opened up in the spring of 2019. We’re at about 92,000 square feet and got a 1,000-seat convention center, which will be good for all of Tahlequah, not just the Cherokee Nation.”
He said 70 percent of the construction money is going to Tribal Employment Rights Office vendors, who are certified to be Native American-owned and approved by the Tribal Council to do business with the tribe.
Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., who was part of the tour group, along with Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin and Tribal Councilor Rex Jordan, said he was pleased at the progress and happy about the number of Cherokees working at the job site.
In a June report, there were 57 percent TERO-certified personnel working at the job site.
“The new casino, which will have 525 games, a restaurant, a grab-and-go café, a live entertainment venue and a full service bar, will be over three times larger than the existing Cherokee Casino Tahlequah. That means 50 new jobs added to the 175 existing jobs for a total of 225. It’s a game changer for the Cherokee capital,” Hoskin said.
Also included in the plans are 33,000 square feet of convention and meeting space, according to a previous Cherokee Phoenix story.
The CN broke ground on March 26 on the new casino, which is expected to bring more entertainment, dining and convention options to the area.
“We’ve taken one of the largest tracts in Tahlequah’s main corridor and are using it to grow the economy and create jobs,” Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO Shawn Slaton said. “We’ve attracted new restaurants and businesses and are now bringing first-class entertainment options to Cherokee Springs Plaza. We know this casino and economic development endeavor will have a lasting impact on the Cherokee Nation and the entire region.”
The current casino is at 16489 Highway 62 and will be donated to the CN’s Cherokee Immersion Charter School to help expand language programs for the tribe’s youth.
The CN broke ground on Cherokee Springs Plaza in 2014. The 154-acre retail, dining and entertainment development is next to Cherokee Springs Golf Course, the tribe’s 18-hole golf course. The plaza has since become home to a new auto dealership, the area’s first Taco Bueno, a Buffalo Wild Wings and a second Sonic Drive-In location.
“We believe in making sound investments that have a lasting impact on the Cherokee Nation and the Cherokee people,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “This new property will be a regional attraction for tourism and economic development and is a complement to the work happening at Cherokee Springs Plaza and all over the Tahlequah area.”
TAHLEQUAH - The Cherokee Nation’s Election commission held a special meeting on July 10 in the Cherokee Nation Election Commission building.
Commissioners revised various segments of the EC bylaws, rules and regulations.
The commission also discussed actions to be taken on the recent water damage to its headquarters. The commission then voted to allow EC Chairwoman Shawna Calico to vote on all motions. Before this decision, Calico only voted when votes ended in ties.
Later Commissioner Carolyn Allen motioned for the commission to go into executive session after attorney Harvey Chaffin told the five commissioners he saw no need for executive session.
Once the commission came out of the private discussion, Calico announced no action was taken during the executive session. The Cherokee Phoenix covered the event and produced the following video of the entire meeting, not including the executive session.