Oklahoma medical pot sales still climbing, top $12M in March

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma tax officials say medical marijuana sales topped $12 million last month, marking the sixth straight month of explosive growth for the new industry.

The Oklahoma Tax Commission reported the state collected more than $870,000 in March from the 7% excise tax on marijuana. The state collected an additional $1.2 million in state and local sales tax on medical pot in March.

Medical marijuana sales have grown significantly each month since dispensaries began selling cannabis in the October.

The number of patients also is skyrocketing. The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority says they've issued more than 83,000 patient licenses since August. They've also licensed more than 1,200 dispensaries and 2,300 commercial growers.

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Audit questions $10 million in fund use by Oklahoma DHS

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A state audit questions the Oklahoma Department of Human Services' use of $10 million in federal funds to assist needy families with adoption expenses.

Funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program are allocated to both foster care costs and adoption expenses. All the children adopted were in state foster care, DHS spokeswoman Sheree Powell said.

The audit said it questions the entire amount after finding DHS did not determine whether the families qualified for the TANF program, considering them "child only cases."

A spokesman for the Oklahoma Auditor and Inspector did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

DHS spokeswoman Sheree Powell told The Associated Press Wednesday the agency was not aware a determination of TANF eligibility was required.

"We assumed the eligibility followed them (children) into adoption just as the federal foster care follows the child into adoption and there is no means test on the federal foster care funds for the adoptive family," Powell said.

The amount of funding provided under the program and the number of families that received it was not known, according to both the audit and Powell, who said agency officials are now working to determine those numbers.

The audit, dated March 29 and first reported by The Oklahoman, recommends DHS develop procedures to determine a family's eligibility for the program and that a plan is expected by July 1, 2020.

Powell said the U.S. Department of Human Services, which oversees the TANF program, will receive the audit in 60 to 90 days and determine whether to ask the funding be returned.

Powell said even if the federal agencies calls for the funding to be returned, the state agency will continue providing adoption assistance and the families who have receive funding will not be asked to return the money.

"We have state funds in our budget to make up the difference because we have about 2,400 fewer kids than we had about three years ago and that has allowed us to build a state dollar savings within our budget," Powell said.

There were about 11,500 foster children in state care three years ago, according to Powell.

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Oklahoma doctor gets 5 months in prison in opioid fraud case

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — An Oklahoma doctor accused of writing fake opioid prescriptions so his patients could return the pills for his personal use has been sentenced to five months in federal prison.

Court records indicate Dr. Jeremy David Thomas of Owasso was sentenced Wednesday after pleading guilty in November to multiple conspiracies to write fraudulent prescriptions for hydrocodone.

Prosecutors say the 43-year-old orthopedic surgeon who practiced in Claremore wrote fraudulent hydrocodone prescriptions for his patients, who delivered some or all of the tablets to him. Authorities say the scheme diverted more than 13,740 doses of the drug between 2015 and 2017, mainly for Thomas' use, including during surgeries.

Thomas' attorney, Robert Lee Wyatt IV, called the case "a very sad set of circumstances."

Oklahoma's Osteopathic Board of Examiners suspended Thomas in January 2018.

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Drug manufacturers divided over jury trial in Oklahoma case

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Drugmakers that Oklahoma sued over their alleged role in the nation's deadly opioid crisis appear divided over whether they want their case tried before a judge or jury.

Johnson & Johnson filed a motion Tuesday seeking a jury trial. The request came after Attorney General Mike Hunter dropped some of the state's claims last week. The move triggered a request to have a judge, not a jury, decide the case.

Teva Pharmaceuticals USA and Allergan filed a motion indicating they don't object to a trial before a judge if the state agrees to certain conditions.

A hearing on the motions is set for Thursday.

Oklahoma settled with Purdue Pharma for $270 million in March in the first such agreement following a wave of nearly 2,000 lawsuits against the company that had threatened to push it into bankruptcy.

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Report: Dead Texas woman dumped in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office says a Texas woman died of "homicidal violence" before being buried in Oklahoma.

A summary of the autopsy on 28-year-old Jenna Scott of Temple was released Wednesday and refers to injuries in a full report. The summary says that report isn't available and a spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Scott and 32-year-old Michael Swearingen of Temple were found dead in a shallow grave in Clearview, about 80 miles (129 kilometers) east of Oklahoma City. A previous autopsy says Swearingen was strangled.

Scott's ex-boyfriend, 44-year-old MMA fighter Cedric Marks, is being held on murder charges in the deaths, which he has denied.

Marks prompted a manhunt Feb. 3 when he escaped from a private prison van. He was recaptured nine hours later.