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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers

December 4, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

Stillwater News Press. Dec. 2, 2018.

— End the backlog, ASAP

After a sexual assault or rape is reported, there is often a forensic medical exam. That evidence is collected and sent to law enforcement agencies. Some go untested for years and each time new kits are added, it increases the backlog.

Some estimates put that backlog at about 7,000 in Oklahoma alone. That’s a lot of unanswered questions for victims and their families. There’s almost no way to tell how much despair this backlog has created.

The Oklahoma State University student newspaper covered a demonstration by OSU students who were trying to raise awareness for the backlog. The students were inspired by an HBO documentary “I Am Evidence,” which explored how the problem stretches across the nation. We’re glad our students are thinking about these things on a personal level. Is it so easy for us to get wrapped up in logistics that we forget the human cost? That the evidence has direct ties to our family, friends and neighbors?

″. it’s easy to think, oh, this is a box sitting on the shelf,” Joyful Heart Foundation policy director Ilse Knecht told the O’Colly’s Caitlin Thomas. “No. This box represents a person who, in many cases after sexual assault, their life goes in a very different direction than what they had intended.”

We know it’s going to cost money. Everything does. We have to prioritize. We have to do what’s best for the victims and we have to ensure that this backlog isn’t creating more victims with perpetrators evading capture as evidence piles up.

We also hope this doesn’t discourage women from doing the exam, or reporting assaults when they occur. It’s always a difficult time and can be traumatizing for sexual assault victims. There has to be hope. There has to be answers. It has to be a priority.

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The Oklahoman. Dec. 4, 2018.

— Oklahoma cities need power to regulate marijuana

While policymakers want to be forward-looking when the 2019 legislative session convenes, a notable part of their agenda must focus on unfinished business from 2018: addressing the need for sensible regulation of medical marijuana.

The weak regulatory guidance established in the state question legalizing marijuana is insufficient, as can be seen in the efforts of cities to pass local ordinances related to marijuana.

The Tulsa World reports dozens of municipalities have adopted marijuana ordinances, but several face lawsuits. The litigation factor has caused many towns to water down regulations or delay action until legal certainty is provided.

Broken Arrow is the most prominent example. Officials wanted to require that commercial marijuana licensees pay a $2,500 annual permit fee. The regulations would have classified dispensaries similar to alcohol-related establishments and prohibited tenants from growing marijuana for personal consumption without written permission from property owners. Growing and processing facilities would have been permitted only in areas zoned for industrial use, keeping them out of residential neighborhoods, and processing would have been confined to indoor facilities.

Those are all sensible regulations in line with requirements imposed on comparable industries. Yet a lawsuit was filed and a judge ruled against the city, finding state law does not allow cities to adopt regulations, zoning overlays, fees or other restrictions that apply to medical marijuana businesses.

Yukon faces a similar lawsuit after officials there passed regulations that banned marijuana businesses from operating on Sundays or within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds, child-care centers, churches, halfway house or rehabilitation centers. The regulations also sought to require a permit fee for retail marijuana businesses and a fee for those growing marijuana in their home.

Regulations containing similar provisions, in whole or part, have been adopted in Weatherford, Elk City, Okemah, Alva, Eufaula, Shawnee, Sallisaw, Comanche, Woodward, Ardmore, McCloud, Cordell, Prague and Slaughterville. Other communities have considered similar regulations but either delayed action or repealed local ordinances due to the threat of lawsuits.

Those who drafted the state question legalizing medical marijuana didn’t design the measure to create a sensible, functional regulatory environment. Instead, an anything-goes approach was implemented. That has prioritized the rights of marijuana growers and users over the rights of property owners, employers and neighborhood residents. Lawmakers should correct that imbalance and revise the law to allow sensible regulations.

Critics will argue marijuana was legalized by a vote of the people, so any change is an effort to thwart the voters’ will. Yet the members of city councils attempting to regulate marijuana are also elected by the voters and their actions reflect the will of their constituents.

The insufficiency of existing regulation is so glaring that even many officials on the pro-marijuana side of this debate have called for strengthening regulation.

Rather than kick the can farther down the road, it’s time lawmakers heeded the requests of communities and granted local governments greater regulatory oversight of marijuana.

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Tulsa World. Dec. 4, 2018.

— Here’s to the champions! Broken Arrow wins the big game

Congratulations to the Broken Arrow Tigers, 2018 state champions in the top division of Oklahoma high school football.

The top-ranked, undefeated Tigers won an exciting, weather-delayed Class 6A Division I championship game against the Jenks Trojans Friday night at the University of Tulsa’s H.A. Chapman Stadium.

It is Broken Arrow’s first state football championship, which, no doubt, makes it all the sweeter to the school’s students, parents, faculty, alumni and patrons.

Tulsa-area teams — Jenks, Union, Owasso and Broken Arrow — have won the top division football championship every year since 1995, 23 years of dominance on this end of the turnpike.

That’s a remarkable testament to the hard work, team effort and school spirit of a lot of local young men, their families, coaches and fans.

Most important, the schools have thrived in sports at the same time they have thrived in academics. Broken Arrow, for example, offers Advanced Placement courses in 29 different subject areas. The school’s band, The Pride of Broken Arrow, has won the Oklahoma Bandmasters Association state championship 17 straight years. Last year, the high school had seven National Merit Scholars. This year, it had three. 2018 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Donna Gradel’s Broken Arrow High School class worked with city engineers to build and launch an 80-foot by 30-foot floating wetland, creating an outdoor classroom in a detention pond across the street from the high school. Broken Arrow is achieving excellence on and off the football field.

We also congratulate the players, coaches and supporters of Bixby High School, which won the 6AII championship Friday in a 34-13 contest against Stillwater.

Local kids will vie for more gridiron glory this week when the Sperry Pirates take on the Beggs Demons in the 2A championship game and Regent Prep takes on Shattuck in the Class B finals in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma high school football is a great tradition. It teaches the value of hard work, goal-setting and teamwork. It unifies communities and, in some cases, provides an essential gateway to higher education. The proud players who walk away with the title of champions will have a lifetime of memories of what they achieved, and their schools will honor their achievements even longer.

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