At Oklahoma's June 26 primary election, voters made it abundantly clear they, too, are in support of an option in medical treatment that 29 other states have embraced: marijuana.

At Oklahoma's June 26 primary election, voters made it abundantly clear they, too, are in support of an option in medical treatment that 29 other states have embraced: marijuana.

State Question 788 legalized the licensed use, sale and growth of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The question the state has to answer now is how to implement the new law. The state is in new terrain now as it navigates through the regulation process.

In what could be as big a battle as SQ 788 passage was, there still are decidedly different points of view on the topic as the state tries to assemble a plan to implement the law by the 60-day deadline.

In her initial response after its passage, Gov. Mary Fallin said she respects the will of the voters, yet she has concerns.

“It is our responsibility as state leaders to look out for the health and safety of Oklahoma citizens,” she said. “As I mentioned in previous public comments, I believe, as well as many Oklahomans, this new law is written so loosely that it opens the door for basically recreational marijuana.”

She first said she would be discussing with legislative leaders and state agencies options going forward on how best to proceed with adding a medical and proper regulatory framework to make sure marijuana use is truly for valid medical illnesses.

Later, she stepped back.

“After conferring with House and Senate leaders, we believe a special legislative session is not necessary to implement provisions of State Question 788,” she said.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has developed emergency rules that will ensure the health and safety of Oklahomans as well as being fair and balanced for the marijuana industry, Fallin said.

“The Health Department has been working with other agencies the past several months to develop a medical and proper regulatory framework to make sure marijuana use is truly for valid medical reasons,” she said. “The voters have spoken, and it’s important that our state has a responsible system up and running to meet the deadlines outlined in State Question 788.”

She said if circumstances develop that adjustments to the Health Department rules are necessary, those can be addressed when lawmakers return in regular session early next year.

Due to the rapid timeframes prescribed in the State Question, an official public comment process was not pursued; instead OSDH made available a proposed working draft of emergency rules for the implementation of a regulatory office related to State Question 788.

The OSDH said it is prepared to meet requirements by the specified time, and that the process will be handled with integrity.

Proposed emergency rules (the working draft) are available online at omma.ok.gov.

The public was allowed a short time to submit comments to the draft — those had to be done so in writing via e-mail on or before July 3.

The proposed emergency rules will be presented to the Oklahoma State Board of Health for its consideration Tuesday.

According to the website, application information and requirements will be available by July 26 for all of the defined categories and the agency will begin accepting applications no later than August 25.

“Please do not visit the state or county health department offices with questions relating to medical marijuana. We are still working with limited staff who deliver clinical and other services across the state,” OSDH Interim Commissioner Tom Bates said. “All relevant information and instructions will be provided online.”

The application process will be enhanced in the coming months to make it more efficient for all interested parties, the OSDH said.

“It may take some time to fully implement all of the steps recommended in preparation for this new program, but we will continue to work to meet the letter of the law and to protect the health and safety of all Oklahomans,” the release reads.

A phone number — (405) 271-2266 — has been established to provide a pre-recorded message that shares updated information.

According to the information hotline, instructions for applying for all types of medical marijuana-related licenses will be available online only.

“OSDH will create a regulatory office to oversee the program,” the hotline recording states. “(It) will receive all licensing applications related to medical marijuana — including patients, care givers, growers, processors, transporters and dispensaries.”

With so many various portions of land not subject to state law — like casinos or Federal buildings — it is especially noteworthy for residents to understand that any licenses or rights granted are only valid on state property — that excludes tribal or Federal lands.

Though emergency rules still have a couple more days to be ironed out, the working draft offers a peek at how the OSDH is tackling the issue.

On the draft site, residents offered their opinions, concerns and suggestions.

The vast majority of recorded public comments centered around a grave dissatisfaction for OSDH's proposal to allow only a limited amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content — 12 percent for medical marijuana products and 20 percent for a mature plant. Countless residents cited the limit as “unacceptable.”

Interested in setting up a dispensary, Pharmacist Graham Bloyed said he believes that the limit of 12 percent THC in marijuana products is absolutely too low for optimal use as actual medicine.

“This needs to be fixed before being finalized,” he said.

Kelly Hawkins stated on the site, “As a medical professional that works with a pediatric population, I see the every day effects of catastrophic seizure disorders in children and their families.”

Research supports a CBD-THC ratio if 10:1 to optimize the therapeutic effects of medical marijuana products, Hawkins said. “The current levels proposed are not in this range and may not offer children and families the therapeutic outcomes they desperately need for not only a good quality life, but life itself.”

Hawkins requested the health department reconsider the allowed amounts and align Oklahoma's policies with those already in place in other states with a successful medical marijuana program.

Others voiced concerns about who should have authority to determine what and how much is prescribed.

“Patients shouldn’t be limited by the state on a decision that should be made my medical professional,” Amada Logan said.

Fingerprint collection outlined in the draft as part of a criminal background check also was hit with opposition.

Commenting on the impact of patient access, Billy Spiva said, “there is no medical or administrative purpose for you to be collecting fingerprints from applicants.” Funny that the VA center can handle my medical without needing my fingerprints, he said.

“No other background check I've been subject to have ever needed my fingerprints either,” he said. “It seems to me that (you're) trying to make the application process as difficult as possible. Just make a form we can fill out with the same documentation requirements that we would have for voter registration.”

Citing potential cost and discrimination concerns due to the proposed rules of where and how license-holders would be allowed to grow the plants, Braden Hartsell said, “In the rules proposed it states a person must have written permission from their landlord to grow medical marijuana — this is a direct attack on the poor community.”

Over longterm it would be cheaper for a person to grow their own marijuana, he said, not to mention the question provided framework that would protect medical marijuana holders from discrimination of landlords.

In another comment on the subject of discrimination, TC Rodgers asked why a felon can't get a medical marijuana card.

“That doesn't make any sense,” Rodgers said. “Do normal people have background check when they go to the doctor office? No, they don't, so why would a patient?”

Ryan Madison said focus is in the wrong place.

“I believe you are going down the wrong track concerning yourself with the minutiae of marijuana law itself,” Madison said. “Time should be focused on implementing the bill, not on limit on the strength of medicine for patients.”

The level or strength of that medicine should be on a case-by-case basis decided by the doctor and the patient, not a hard rule by a board; focus on patients getting the care they need — not this time-wasting shenanigans, Madison said.

Many residents shared the sentiment that when SQ 788 was passed, voters did so with the expectation the wording would stay exactly as-is.

“It's absolutely unacceptable to change the terms of the state question that was voted for and passed by the people of Oklahoma,” Meagan Wagner said.

Though most comments were against the proposed regulations, not all were.

“I read the recommendations put forward by the OK State Department of Health and I heartily agree with their emergency rules that need to be put in place,” Jan Tipton said. “I especially applaud the rule about not using smoked marijuana as a medicine since smoking treads on the rights of others.”

Tipton said she has asthma that is very sensitive to smoke.

“I want to be able to play league tennis without having to use my inhaler,” she said.

Watch for updates and more stories addressing challenges the state is facing regarding the new law.