In the face of legal threats, the state is backing off on these restrictions, but a conflict between the new law and older state laws will leave cannabis law enforcement in confusion until the new medical program can get fully underway. Conservative government officials took issue to the fact that the measure did not establish a list of qualifying conditions, leaving it up to individual doctors to decide what conditions merit treatment with cannabis.
The advocacy groups behind the ballot initiative took legal action against the state, arguing that the new regulations were in violation of voters’ wishes. The revised regulations will no longer ban smokable cannabis, will not require a pharmacist to be present at every dispensary, and remove arbitrary THC limits imposed on products. A troubling regulation that would have forced all women to undergo a pregnancy test before receiving approval to use medical cannabis will also be lifted. “If we get this voted in by the board, it couldn’t have been done better in my mind. It’s wonderful.” Paul said that he and other cannabis advocates had recently met with Interim Health Commissioner Tom Bates to discuss the changes to the law, including the possible addition of improved product testing requirements.
While this drama has been playing out, the new medical marijuana law went into effect this week. Until the state has completed its licensing and regulation process, and the first dispensaries open their doors, the legality of medical marijuana remains somewhat hazy. Recreational marijuana possession can still be enforced under the original state law and punished by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The new medical marijuana law does not fully set out the guidelines for how police are expected to handle this new category of possession. “It was written with enough open-endedness, which has created a certain level of unknowns in the criminal justice system currently.” The new law does not explicitly direct police to either write a ticket for a medical-related possession offense or to file a misdemeanor charge, nor does it protect medical cannabis users from being arrested for possessing pot paraphernalia.
Patients who receive approval from their doctors are allowed to begin growing their own weed as of September 3rd, and are allowed to possess mature plants as of October 26th. But Grayless believes that the law is not sufficient to protect patients with home-grown weed from law enforcement. The proposal, if approved by voters, would make pot legal for all adults over 21, and set up guidelines for a taxed and regulated retail market. “They want to see that happen here in Oklahoma. The voters of Oklahoma who overwhelmingly voted for 788 wanted to send a message to our lawmakers that we know exactly what we’re voting for and we know what it will do for our state’s economy.”
Caviness said that he hopes to collect 150,000 signatures before turning the petition in. The petition must be approved by Governor Fallin, who worked to derail the medical cannabis measure, so the group wants to do everything it can to ensure success.