Marijuana Restrictions May Make Oklahomans Mad Enough to Vote

Oklahoma’s restrictive new medical marijuana rules could cultivate strong support for a legalization vote and State Question 797, which aims to legalize adult-use marijuana for adults  21 and older.

After Oklahoma voters approved the state’s medical marijuana ballot initiative in late June 2018, Republican Gov. Mary Fallin announced Tuesday July 10, 2018,  she would adopt the restrictive rules and regulations established by the State Board of Health.

The state’s new emergency rules prohibit the retail sale of all forms of smokable medical marijuana in state-sanctioned dispensaries.  The emergency regulations also require state dispensaries to have a licensed pharmacist on staff, and all dispensary managers are required to undergo at least four hours of continuing education on an annual basis. Additionally, the State Board of Health imposed caps on THC potency. Products sold in dispensaries will be limited to 12 percent THC, while homegrown medicine will be required to stay under a 20 percent THC limit.

Green the Vote, frustrated by the governor’s move, drafted a lawsuit against Gov. Fallin and the Board of Health. The Tulsa-based group, which is collecting signatures to put a marijuana legalization ballot initiative on the November 2018 ballot, claims the state Board of Health violated the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act by secretly discussing last-minute modifications to the program’s rules, the Oklahoman newspaper reported.

Fallin, however, said the rules were necessary.

“These rules are the best place to start in developing a proper regulatory framework for medical marijuana, with the highest priority given to the health and safety of Oklahomans,” according to the governor’s one-page press release. “They are also the quickest and most cost-efficient way to get the process actually started as required by the law passed by the people. I expect modifications could occur in the future. I know some citizens are not pleased with these actions.”

The updated emergency rules pose a predicament for MMJ patients who are unable to grow their own medicine, though the rules allow patients to smoke their medicine if they have  cultivated it themselves.

Specifically, the updated emergency rules say, “All patient license holders are eligible to home grow their own marijuana subject to the limitations on amounts imposed by the state. All home grown medical marijuana must be behind a fence, under lock and key and not visible from any street.”

While the updated emergency rules represent a potential obstacle for some patients, Green the Vote views the onerous changes to a voter-approved initiative as an opportunity to gather more signatures for State Question 797.

The pro-legalization group reported Sunday, July 15, 2018, that its signature drive to to collect 124,000 signatures and place the ballot initiative legalizing adult-use marijuana has now received more than 104,000 signatures, a boost of 23,000 votes since July 8, 2018. Isaac Caviness, leader of Green The Vote, told Tulsa World, “I think it’s a clear message that the people here in Oklahoma are aggravated with what the health department did last week.”

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