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Budget, guns topics at luncheon

Legislative efforts from gun control to legalizing medical marijuana, with higher taxes and fees sprinkled in, drew comments from area legislators Friday during the Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce's legislative luncheon.

The event is designed to give chamber members a chance to meet with area legislators and ask questions, and all six of the Lawton area team attended Friday's luncheon. In addition to Sen. Randy Bass, the Lawton Democrat who is in his final year at the state Capitol because of term limits, attendees included Rep. John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton; Rep. Rande Worthen, R-Lawton; Rep. Jeff Coody, R-Grandfield; Rep. Scooter Park, R-Devol; and Sen. Chris Kidd, R-Addington.

Coody drew a question about gun-related legislation winding its way through the Capitol. Coody, a strong gun rights advocate, has submitted gun legislation in multiple sessions, such as one that would reduce restrictions on those who want to own and carry guns. He said his House Bill 2951 is the advancement of what people have dubbed "constitutional carry" or "permitless carry" and is something that at least 12 other states already grant, allowing the carry of weapons without a permit and without mandated training and a government background check.

He said the issue is one of battling the concept of people waiting for permission from the government bureaucracy for something that already is allowed by the Bill of Rights.

"This is a freedom bill," Coody said, adding he had several problems with legislation that seeks to put restrictions on gun ownership, including an existing training requirement.

Coody, who has been trained in the use of guns since he was a young child, said the existing provision for eight hours of training "isn't enough," explaining legitimate gun owners want  and will seek  the training they need to safely carry and use firearms. He said Arizona, which legalized constitutional carry in 2010, has seen its number of gun trainers quadruple.

"Folks want training," he said.

Worthen noted his background as a prosecutor when addressing a state question that will be presented to voters in June. Dubbed the "medical marijuana" law, Worthen said he is worried the question is polling very positively among Oklahomans.

"This question is not about medical marijuana," Worthen said, explaining medical marijuana already is in the state.

Worthen said what this law will actually do is take the first step to complete legalization of marijuana, explaining that, among other things, it would allow the possession of marijuana plants and give people the right to carry up to 3 ounces of marijuana. He also drew a parallel to tobacco.

"We spent millions of dollars to fight tobacco," he said, adding the same carcinogens in tobacco are found in marijuana, but people are willing to ignore that.

He said the level of THC ( tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical responsible for the drug's psychotropic effects) in today's marijuana is much higher than it was in marijuana used in the 1980s and said the issue of medical use can be addressed through oil and pills.

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