No Smoking, and Other Controversial Medical Marijuana Rules in Oklahoma

by | July 13, 2018

By Dale Denwalt

Gov. Mary Fallin has signed emergency rules regulating Oklahoma's medical marijuana industry a day after they were introduced by the State Board of Health.

Although the industry said more regulations were needed to ensure the new law could be effectively implemented, her decision Wednesday set off a firestorm of commentary about controversial provisions that were introduced shortly before the board's action.

"These rules are the best place to start in developing a proper regulatory framework for medical marijuana, with the highest priority given to the health and safety of Oklahomans," Fallin said. "They are also the quickest and most cost-efficient way to get the process actually started as required by the law passed by the people."

Most of the new rules are typical bureaucratic fare, including sections that regulate labels, testing, advertising and disposal.

However, additions introduced before the meeting Tuesday included provisions that ban smokable marijuana and some edibles, and the requirement that each dispensary hire a pharmacist. Those measures were pushed by the state's health care community, who opposed State Question 788 before more than half a million Oklahomans voted to make it law.

The governor can only approve or deny the entire rule change; she cannot pick and choose which parts of it to sign. Fallin said she expects modifications to the rules but continued to rule out a special legislative session to address comprehensive legislation.

Lawmakers will have a chance to review the rules, but only when they convene in regular session next February.

"I know some citizens are not pleased with these actions," Fallin said. "But I encourage everyone to approach this effort in a constructive fashion in order to honor the will of the citizens of Oklahoma who want a balanced and responsible medical marijuana law."

State Question 788 required the Oklahoma State Department of Health to start the application process by July 26. Completed licensing forms can be turned in on Aug. 25.

The rules could draw legal challenges by the state's burgeoning cannabis industry, or by advocates who have campaigned for years to adopt medical marijuana.

Bud Scott, executive director of New Health Solutions Oklahoma, said after the board's vote Tuesday that it would be financially unfeasible for every dispensary to employ a pharmacist, and that the rules ban products that are widely available in other states with medical marijuana laws.

In a news release on Wednesday, the group's Political Director Jed Green said the rules are designed to hamstring the industry.

"By refusing to show leadership and call a special session, the governor's office has handed over implementation of Oklahoma's medical cannabis program to a group of bureaucrats that are beholden to the special interest groups that fought State Question 788," Green said.

The group, which is one of two cannabis trade organizations based in Oklahoma, did not say whether they would challenge the law.

(c)2018 The Oklahoman