by Kayla Johnson
It’s no secret that Oklahoma’s State Question 788 has as much staunch opposition as it does fervent support. To those who have worked to obtain signatures, or to help people register to vote, this is especially obvious. For those individuals, however, there’s something that matters to them more than the opposition and alleged intimidation they’ve had to overcome: getting that bill passed.
One of those individuals is Tijuana Boulanger, a native of Bartlesville. She moved away nearly three decades ago. Upon her return it was no question for her to get involved with the movement to help get 788 on the ballot, and passed into law. She’s been working for the past four years in Oklahoma helping to gather signatures and registering people to vote. She has always been an advocate for cannabis.
When asked what spurred her to get actively involved four years ago, her answer was quite simple. “I work home health, and I’ve seen what these non-cannabis medications do to my patients in person.” On top of witnessing these side effects in her patients day in and day out, Boulanger is also a survivor of the opioid crisis. For her, like so many other volunteers and activists, it’s a personal victory to see this bill passed.
This triumph hasn’t come easily. Many towns in Oklahoma are often considered the most deeply conservative (set in their ways) and Pawhuska, where Boulanger lives and has advocated for medical cannabis, is no different according to Boulanger. Boulanger explained that during at least three separate occasions while gathering signatures and registering people to vote in a verified (by the city) permitted location, she was told by municipal law enforcement to move. Once she had moved, those officers, rather than returning to their regular duties, parked across the street to observe her and those who came to her tent.
Boulanger said she believed this had a significant impact on those who wished to sign the petitions or register to vote at her table. “The people here in town are, overall, supportive of cannabis use and the bill, but they’re just scared to death of coming out of the cannabis closet. I believe this is a direct result of fear of repercussions from city law enforcement. It seems like the city is keeping people ignorant, because it was shocking how many people didn’t even know how to register to vote in the upcoming elections.”
Her conflict with the police department in Pawhuska doesn’t stop there according to Boulanger. She stated that a sign she had placed across the street from her tent in support of SQ 788 was deliberately ran over by a man on a riding lawn mower, damaging the sign and bending it down. She snapped a photo of the man and it was later revealed to be a significant law enforcement figure for Pawhuska. Boulanger believes this photo being shared online is part of the reason she has been harassed by the police. Because of the harassment, she now drives with several different cameras in her vehicle to ensure she has a record of any traffic stop or incident. “They’re trying to keep weed out of the city, and I don’t think they’re being honest. So those cameras are to keep them from intimidating me.”
Though she firmly believes the harassment and unfair treatment of anyone who supports medical cannabis in Pawhuska will continue, she’s not lost her determination to continue to work for and support something she believes in. “I don’t like to be pushed around or be treated like a second class citizen in my own town.” Boulanger stated. According to her, that very attitude has helped her and other volunteers in other towns push through despite the opposition they’ve received. “It’s that level of determination that helped drive the movement to pass the bill.”
Herb•age magazine reached out to the Pawhuska Police Department for comment. We were notified that there would be a response from the officer that handles public relations. After no response we then gave the police department a reasonable deadline. There was no response.