Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Muskogee Police Chief Johnny Teehee: Please oppose SQ820

Muskogee Police Chief Johnny Teehee is out with an op-ed opposing State Question 820, which aims to makes recreational marijuana legal in Oklahoma. Read below:


While my day job has me serving as Chief of Police in Muskogee, I am writing today more as a father and grandfather who is also the product of a family marred by substance abuse.

Substance abuse is nothing new.

When my father returned from serving in Vietnam, he turned to alcohol to cope. Marijuana was the gateway drug that entrapped my mother and held her until she finally got clean in prison. If not for my grandparents and the small town of Vian, there is no telling where I would be today. But they stuck with me, shepherded me, and led me on a better path. That was tough. I don't know that it would have been successful in a world with legal weed. It is already tough enough to evade the world of substance abuse, but if recreational marijuana is given legal status, it will be even more difficult. SQ 820 removes the last vestiges of danger or concern. Legalizing recreational marijuana tells Oklahomans – including those under the age of 21 – that marijuana must not be that bad. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Today's marijuana has much higher concentration of THC, the component that creates the "high" and that is addictive. Consumption has been correlated with increased prevalence of suicidal ideation, psychoses, and schizophrenia. Addiction leads to poor decision-making as an addict looks to feed a habit.

If you legalize something, you will get more of it. Even the proponents of SQ 820 admit that. Their own economic analysis says that Oklahomans will spend millions more a year on marijuana than they do today. And this is not good for our families, our communities, or our state. Yes, it will raise millions, but at what cost? I think that cost will be the next generation – that of my 2-year-old granddaughter. Too many that age will be raised in a world where using marijuana is commonplace and socially accepted, and even encouraged. This is being done despite concrete, scientific proof, that use of marijuana permanently lowers IQ, lowers educational attainment, and leads to lower work productivity.

As a child, I lived the fallout from substance abuse and addiction. As a police officer, I have seen far too many of our families suffer from it. I have had to tell parents a child has passed due to a fentanyl overdose. I have seen folks turn to a life of crime to feed a habit. And I hear time and time again that these problems started just with a little joint. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Under our state's medical marijuana system, Oklahoma's small towns and rural areas have become a haven for organized crime. These international syndicates are using the veil of legality to cover their trade in other illicit drugs, like fentanyl. Law enforcement and the state are just now starting to formulate a plan for dealing with illegal grows, foreign land ownership, and other repercussions of that initiative petition, and passing SQ820 would reverse the limited progress we have made.

Please join me in fighting back. It is our obligation to protect our kids, protect our small towns, and protect our state from the blight brought by addiction and substance abuse. Please vote NO to SQ 820 on March 7.

Johnny Teehee has 35 years of law enforcement experience, rising to the rank of Chief of Police in Muskogee. A graduate of the FBI National Academy at Quantico, Teehee has served on the board of Green Country Behavioral Health Services for 15 years.


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