Groups Weigh In On Health Department's Plan To Regulate Marijuana If State Question 788 Passes

Jun 25, 2018

State Question 788 would allow Oklahomans over 18 to keep, use and grow medical marijuana, after they get a physician-approved license from the state. Draft rules obtained by StateImpact shed light on how state officials may regulate medical marijuana if voters pass the ballot initiative on Tuesday.

The 63 pages of proposed rules, written by state health officials are subject to change. Under a draft of the proposed rules dated June 19, pregnant women would be barred from obtaining a medical marijuana license, medical marijuana research licenses would be available and a new regulatory group called the Medical Marijuana Industry Expert Board would be formed.

Bud Scott, Executive Director of New Health Solutions Oklahoma, a trade association representing the medical marijuana industry called the initial draft regulations a ‘promising step’ and said they were proof that the Oklahoma State Department of Health is capable of overseeing a regulatory medical marijuana program.

“It is important to note that nearly every issue cited by opponents of medical cannabis legalization has been addressed through these regulations, including smoking in public places, clarification of qualifying medical professionals, and providing more structure to this law, as has been the case in every jurisdiction with a functional medical marijuana program,” Scott said in an email to StateImpact. “Our members are committed to continuing to work with policymakers to ensure that appropriate statutory and regulatory measures are put in place to fulfill the will of the people and implement this program in a timely manner.”

The marijuana initiative has come under fire by an organization called State Question 788 is Not Medical, which is comprised of law enforcement, business, political, medical and faith leaders who launched a campaign to defeat the ballot initiative, saying it’s too loosely written.

The group’s co-chairman, Dr. Kevin Taubman, who is also immediate past president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association said he was “cautiously optimistic” the draft rules address some of the organization’s concerns about the state’s response in the event SQ 788 passes but said health officials and state lawmakers would still have a lot more work to do.

“There are still many questions that need to be addressed and we look forward to working with policymakers to ensure a plan is implemented that reduces public safety risks while allowing Oklahoma patients to have access to the treatments they and their physicians think best,” Taubman said.

Last week Gov. Mary Fallin said she’d convene a special legislative session so lawmakers could write new regulations if voters approve SQ 788. In response to questions about the proposed rules, a spokesperson for Fallin’s office said, “the governor will discuss all options with legislative leaders if State Question 788 passes.”

An estimated budget sent to the Legislature by the health department suggests enacting the new regulations could cost the state at least $3.6 million during the first year. A 7 percent sales tax on medical marijuana and licensing fees would be collected to pay for the state’s oversight, but no data on projected sales exists.