LINDSAY, Okla. (AP) — Danny Daniels, an evangelical Christian in the rural Oklahoma town of Lindsay, is reliably conservative on just about every political issue.
The 45-year-old church pastor is anti-abortion, voted for President Donald Trump and is a member of the National Rifle Association who owns an AR-15 rifle. He also came of age during the 1980s and believed in the anti-drug mantra that labeled marijuana as a dangerous gateway drug.
But his view on marijuana changed as his pastoral work extended into hospice care and he saw patients at the end of their lives benefiting from the use of cannabis.
“Some people said I couldn’t be a pastor and support medical marijuana, but I would say most of the people I know, including the Christians I pastor, are in favor of it,” said Daniels, pastor of Better Life Community Church in downtown Lindsay, a rural agricultural and energy industry town about 50 miles (80.5 kilometers) south of Oklahoma City.
Daniels is among a growing group of traditionally conservative Republican voters in Oklahoma who have shifted their position on the topic. Their support for a medical marijuana measure on Tuesday’s ballot could ensure Oklahoma joins the growing list of states that have legalized some form of pot.
It’s the first medical marijuana state question on a ballot in 2018, and Oklahoma’s vote precedes elections on marijuana legalization later this year in Michigan and Utah. Michigan voters will decide whether to legalize recreational pot while Utah is considering medical marijuana.
Among the reddest states in the country, Oklahoma has for decades embraced a tough-on-crime philosophy that includes harsh penalties for drug crimes that has contributed to the state now leading the nation in the percentage of its population behind bars.
But voters’ attitudes are changing. Two