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Oklahoma

  • by NORML August 2, 2018

    The Oklahoma Board of Health reversed course this week and revoked their previous set of proposed rules that went against the intent of SQ 788, which voters approved in the June special election. The measure, which legalized medical marijuana in the state, was approved with support from 57% of voters.

    After SQ 788’s passage, the board initially attempted to meddle with its implementation, passing rules that would have banned or severely restricted key components of the ballot question – including a ban on the retail sale of herbal cannabis, a requirement that dictated that dispensaries hire state-licensed pharmacists, and an arbitrary limit on the THC content of medical cannabis products. These former proposed rules have all been reversed.

    “The actions taken by an unelected group of health officials in Oklahoma were egregiously undemocratic. We are heartened to see them now reverse course, but they should have never attempted to meddle with a voter approved measure in the first place. It is our hope that state officials take heed at the nearly unanimous backlash they faced due to these actions and move to swiftly enact SQ 788 in the patient-centric manner the ballot language called for,” commented NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri.

    This reversal comes shortly after the state’s Attorney General warned health officials that they “acted in excess of their statutory authority” when they amended State Question 788. These new rules now go to Governor Fallin’s desk, she has 45 days to approve or reject them.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 27, 2018

    Oklahoma health officials on Wednesday will discuss a series of revised rules and regulations to govern the state’s voter-approved medical cannabis access program. The newly proposed changes eliminate several restrictive amendments enacted by the Department earlier this month. The proposed changes come just days after the state’s Attorney General warned health officials that they “acted in excess of their statutory authority” when they amended State Question 788.

    Specifically, the newly proposed rules — which are available online here — remove the ban on the retail sale of herbal cannabis, eliminate the requirement that dispensaries hire state-licensed pharmacists, and no longer mandate that women of childbearing age undergo a pregnancy test prior to receiving a medical cannabis recommendation. No such restrictions initially appeared in State Question 788.

    Other proposed changes would remove arbitrary limits on the THC content of medical cannabis products, and permit dispensaries to sell cannabis plants and seedlings to qualified patients.

    Fifty-seven percent of voters approved State Question 788 on June 28.

  • by NORML July 18, 2018

    [UPDATE: Governor Fallin has also now called for the Board to rescind its amended rules.]

    [UPDATE: The president of the state Board of Health has announced that the group will call a special meeting “as soon as possible” to consider the Attorney General’s recommendations.]

    Oklahoma’s Attorney General warns that members of the state Board of Health “acted in excess of their statutory authority” when they amended State Question 788 – the state’s voter-approved medical cannabis access law.

    In a letter issued on Wednesday to the Interim Commissioner of Health, Attorney General Mike Hunter states that the Board “overstepped its authority” by imposing new rules prohibiting the sale of herbal forms of cannabis, and mandating on-site pharmacists at licensed dispensaries.

    “This is a wise move by the Attorney General, both from a policy and a political standpoint,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “When the will of the people is to ensure that patients have the ability to have access to physician-recommended therapeutic treatments, the will of the people deserves to be honored. Absent a majority vote of the legislature, the decision of the voters in this matter ought to remain sacrosanct.”

    To date, two separate lawsuits have been filed against the state health department in response to the new rules, which Republican Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law last week.

    “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 AG said. “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. … [T]he people of the state have spoken and I have a legal duty to honor the decision made by the electorate.”

    He concluded, “It is therefore my judgement that the Board reconvene to reconsider the rules … in a manner consistent with the advice of this letter.”

    Reform advocates in the state claim to be just several thousand signatures shy of those necessary to place a broader adult use initiative on the November ballot. However, Oklahoma’s Secretary of State has claimed that a vote on the issue will likely be delayed until 2020 even if activists meet the signature requirements.

  • by NORML July 12, 2018

    Republican Gov. Mary Fallin yesterday signed into law emergency regulations amending SQ 788 — the state’s voter-initiated medical marijuana access law.

    The changes, approved Tuesday in a 5 to 4 vote by directors at the Department of Health, seek to severely limit patients’ access to a wide range of cannabis products. Specifically, the new provisions: prohibit the sale of herbal cannabis at licensed dispensaries; require dispensaries to have a licensed pharmacist on staff; impose arbitrary THC potency thresholds on various cannabis-infused products; and mandate that dispensary managers obtain at least four hours of continuing education training each calendar year. Qualified patients will still be permitted to grow their own medical marijuana flowers.

    The Oklahoma State Medical Association, which opposed the passage of SQ 788, lobbied for many of the amendments. Governor Fallin also was a vocal critic of the initiative campaign.

    NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano criticized the changes. “Government officials are not acting in good faith. Not only are they undermining the will of the voters, but they are violating the spirit of the law in a manner that will be detrimental to the very patients this measure was intended to protect.”

    Initiative proponents are considering pursuing legal actions. Activists are also in the process of gathering signatures to place a broader, adult use legalization measure on the 2018 ballot.

    NORML has long argued that patients should not be limited solely to non-inhaled forms of cannabis because these alternative formulations possess delayed onset and their effects are far less predictable than those of herbal cannabis. Further, restricting patients’ access to herbal cannabis limits their exposure to the multitude of synergistically acting therapeutic compounds and terpenes found naturally in the plant, many of which are no longer present in formulations produced following the extraction of individual cannabinoids.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 12, 2018

    Oklahoma voters will decide on Tuesday, June 26, on State Question 788 — a statewide voter-initiated measure that permits doctors to use their discretion to recommend medical cannabis to patients.

    Under the proposed plan, licensed medical marijuana patients may cultivate up to six mature plants, and may possess personal use quantities of marijuana flower, edibles, or infused concentrates.

    According to polling data released in May, Oklahoma voters support the passage of State Question 788 by a margin of nearly 2 to 1. Public support for the measure has largely held steady, even in the face of growing, organized opposition from members of law enforcement and certain business leaders. State lawmakers also attempted to preempt the initiative by passing legislation to significantly limit its scope and purpose, but that effort was eventually tabled in April.

    Under state law, the possession of any amount of cannabis is classified as a criminal offense — punishable by up to a year in prison. Engaging in cannabis sales is punishable by up to life in prison. According to a study released earlier this week, Oklahoma’s incarceration rate is 1,079 per 100,000 people — the highest rate in the United States.

    If Oklahoma voters pass SQ 788 in two weeks, it will become the 31st state to legalize the possession and use of cannabis by authorized patients.

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