Since Oklahoma voters made it clear in June they are in support of an option in medical marijuana treatment, state leaders are now scrambling to establish parameters for regulating it.

Since Oklahoma voters made it clear in June they are in support of an option in medical marijuana treatment, state leaders are now scrambling to establish parameters for regulating it.

Passing with 57 percent at the June 26 primary election, State Question 788 legalized the licensed use, sale and growth of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The battle is now on to determine how to implement the new law by the 60-day deadline, as required in the state question.

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

“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 said.

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.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has been working for months to develop emergency rules.

The public was allowed a short time to submit comments to the draft; 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.”

The policies — after the board added two amendments (requiring dispensaries to be operated by pharmacists and banning the sale of smokable marijuana, despite a warning from legal counsel that it could open the door for legal challenges) — were adopted by the State Board of Health and then quickly approved by Gov. Mary Fallin.

Civil lawsuits were filed soon after in two Oklahoma counties accusing state health officials of improperly imposing strict rules on the state's recently approved medical marijuana industry.

Attorney General Mike Hunter issued a statement advising the board to reconsider its actions.

“The current rules contain provisions that are inconsistent with the plain language of State Question 788 and the State Board of Health acted outside of its authority when it voted to implement them,” he said.

Hunter added a laundry list of other concerns in the proposed regulations.

“I have no doubt that the board in good faith sought to regulate marijuana in a manner it believed would best promote the health and safety of Oklahomans,” the letter reads. “However, in so doing, the board made policy judgments not authorized by statute. Such policy decisions are the exclusive prerogative of the legislature and the people.”

Last week another updated draft — which offers six pages of revisions to the rules — was offered, noting that the information regarding applications reflects recent changes recommended by Hunter.

Latest revisions

Among the most updated changes are the following:

• Removes limitations on THC content.

• Requirements for a licensed pharmacist have been removed.

• Makes physician registration optional.

• Removes requirement for pregnancy test.

• In an application for patient license for persons under age 18, it requires two physician recommendations within thirty days of each other, but removes requirement that physicians be pediatricians or pediatric sub-specialists who state same medical diagnosis and do not work together.

• Allows licensed dispensaries to sell marijuana seedlings and mature plants.

• Adjusts the age restriction on employees from 21 to 18.

• Removes requirement that commercial establishments be enclosed and other additional requirements.

• Removes background checks for principal officers.

• Requires a bona fide physician-patient relationship, but no longer requires a physician to have ongoing responsibility for the care of the individual.

• Removes requirement for annual assessment of medical need for marijuana and related provisions. Statutory language grants 2-year license.

• Requires a physician determination, rather than a screening, relating to risk of substance abuse.

• Clarifies that parents or legal guardians may only be caregivers when a minor is homebound.

• Adds requirement that patient and caregiver license holders must notify the Department of any changes in their contact information.

• Adds name of parent or legal guardian to minor patient license.

• Removes sanctions on a licensed patient or caregiver for failing to report knowledge of conduct violating the medical marijuana control program.

• Makes issuance of transportation license automatic upon approval of commercial license; removes requirement that transportation licenses be issued in name of individual employees.

• Removes requirement that a licensed researcher would also need a grower’s license in order to grow for research purposes.

• Removes inspections by the Department prior to approval of research license applications.

• Requires research licensees to submit monthly consumption reports to the Department as set forth in SQ 788.

• Requires research licensees to maintain certain records and an inventory tracking system.

• Provides that the Department may conduct audits and inspect the books and records to ensure the accuracy of the monthly reports.

• No longer requires applicants to provide hours of operation.

• No longer requires commercial establishments to provide the following: a list of creditors; a list of persons with management authority; a surety bond; or designation of a successor-in-interest/designee.

• Removes inspections by the Department prior to approval of research license applications.

• Limits inspections to processors to determine compliance with food safety/preparation standards.

• Provides for revocation of a commercial license should the licensee wholly fail to submit a monthly report required under SQ 788.

• Removes all references to a dispensary manager; places the responsibilities of the dispensary manager upon the dispensary as a whole.

• Removes prohibition on dispensaries co-locating with other business entities or commercial establishments.

• Removes limitation that commercial establishments may only sell medical marijuana and medical marijuana products.

• Removes limitation on sale of items bearing a symbol of or referencing marijuana or medical marijuana products.

• No longer requires labels to contain patient name, directions of use for patient, name of recommending physician, and initials of person dispensing the medical marijuana.

Pending approval

This latest draft still is subject to change and is pending official adoption of emergency rules by the Oklahoma Board of Health and approval from Fallin. According to the website, at ok.gov, a meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday at the OSDH building, in Oklahoma City.

SQ 788 also established a Food Safety Standards Board and each appointment will be made by the Commissioner of Health, as specified in the new law. The nominees for the 12 positions will need to have expertise in the marijuana industry as well as public health and clinical science. Public announcement of the appointees will be made shortly following the special meeting.

More info

“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.”

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

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

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

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.

Watch for updates.