Controversy has erupted in Oklahoma this week as the state’s Department of Health voted on emergency rules to implement the state’s new medical marijuana program. Criticism revolves around a number of restrictions placed upon medical marijuana patients, chief among them the removal of smokable marijuana from the approved delivery methods. The draft rules also require dispensaries to hire a full-time pharmacist.
Critics of the draft rules say these moves directly violate the will of Oklahoma voters when they approved State Question 788, which legalized medical marijuana in the state with a 56 percent majority. Board members did acknowledge prior to voting that voters who approved SQ 788 probably believed that would include smokable marijuana, according to Tulsa World.
Home-growing remains legal, on the other hand, which would still allow residents to access smokable marijuana on their own. However, this move would prohibit the sale of smokable marijuana in dispensaries.
“In banning all smokeable forms of medical cannabis in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Health Department just guaranteed litigation. This is completely inconsistent with #SQ788 & a responsible medical cannabis program,” Oklahoma ACLU director Ryan Kiesel tweeted.
In banning all smokeable forms of medical cannabis in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Health Department just guaranteed litigation. This is completely inconsistent with #SQ788 & a responsible medical cannabis program.
— Ryan Kiesel (@capitolkiesel) July 10, 2018
Julie Ezell, the Health Department’s general counsel, cautioned board members that the two new rules they added to the proposed rules might not be allowed under State Question 788, which legalized medical marijuana. That could invite a court challenge, she said.
Tom Bates, interim commissioner of the Health Department, said the department had expected some court challenges, regardless of whether the board added the dispensary restrictions. The board will continue to revisit the rules over the next months, while Health Department staff continue working out the logistics surrounding legalization, he said.
Among the few to shout satisfaction for the new rules was a coalition of health groups that advocated for the provisions, including the smokable marijuana ban. Dr. Jean Hausheer, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, voiced support of.
“We are pleased with the rules adopted today by the Oklahoma State Department of Health and look forward to working with them to promote public health throughout the state,” she said in a news release.
Oklahoma could find itself in a similar position to Florida. The state has found itself in numerous court battles after Florida’s Health Department banned smokable marijuana in framework for medical marijuana. What’s more, Florida has been on the losing end of these legal battles, with one judge ruling the smokable marijuana ban as unconstitutional.
Once finalized, the draft rules will go to Gov. Mary Fallin for approval. Application for licenses will be made available starting July 26, and the Health Department will accept completed applications starting Aug. 25.