Medical marijuana in Oklahoma could become legal this June when voters in the Sooner State cast their ballots on Question 788. According to a recent poll, 61% of Oklahomans support the bill, giving it a clear path for passing. What happens next is not so clear.
At Medicine Man Technologies, we’ve been keeping an eye on how things have been unfolding and see a major hurdle standing in the way of supporters of this legislation and the patients who need access to medical marijuana in Oklahoma. State Senator, Ervin Yen, has introduced Senate Bill 1120, which would restrict certain provisions of the state’s ballot initiative, namely the list of qualifying medical conditions. If this bill passes prior to the June vote, it would undermine the intent of SQ 788 and the will of the people.
States of Nebraska & Oklahoma v. State of Colorado
While the state legislature’s preemptive effort to limit SQ 788 prior to a vote is disappointing, it certainly comes as no big surprise. In December of 2014, Oklahoma and Nebraska filed suit with the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn Colorado’s legalization of adult-use marijuana.
In their lawsuit, these neighboring states claimed that Colorado was violating the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution by enacting a law that was in direct conflict with federal law that deems all forms of marijuana as illegal. They further claimed, and without statistics or figures, that legalizing pot here in Colorado was putting a strain on local law enforcement agencies and budgets due to an increase in pot-related arrests in their own states.
In March of 2016 and with a 6-2 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the proposed lawsuit.
State Question 788 v. Oklahoma Senate Bill 1120
If medical marijuana in Oklahoma is approved by the voters, licensed patients will be able to possess up to 3 ounces on their person and 8 ounces at their residence. They’ll also be able to have up to 6 mature plants and 6 seedling plants in their homes. Applying for a license will require the signature of a board-certified physician and be sent to the Oklahoma State Department of Health for approval.
Borrowing from states that have already built thriving medical marijuana programs, SQ 788 covers a lot of territory in its text, outlining a simple and sensible implementation of dispensary operations, growing, production, and transportation for medical marijuana in Oklahoma. It even covers taxation (7% taken at the point of sale) and sets the enactment date as one month after it’s approved by voters.
Now, while Senator Yen acknowledges the inevitable progress of legalization in Oklahoma and the rest of the world, he feels that SQ 788 is too open-ended. In an interview with KOSU public radio, Yen stated, “As a physician, it would be hard for me to be against medical marijuana, but I believe in all the states that have legalized medical marijuana, it’s not really medical marijuana. I think it’s quite easy for people to get a medical marijuana card…If we’re going to do this in Oklahoma, let’s do it the right way.”
His “right way” is detailed in SB 1120 which requires people to obtain a medical marijuana prescription from a doctor or medical practitioner who is registered with the Department of Health. The patient must suffer from a “serious condition” and also be under the care of the prescribing doctor for treatment of that illness. Most disturbingly, the proposed bill strips post-traumatic stress disorder and depression as qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in Oklahoma and makes no mention of Dravet syndrome or other forms of epilepsy. Instead, it lists the following:
- A severe debilitating or life-threatening condition
- Neuropathic pain
- Persistent muscle spasms due to multiple sclerosis or paraplegia
- Nausea or vomiting due to chemotherapy
- Loss of weight or appetite due to cancer or HIV/AIDS
- Chronic pain when other treatments have failed
In his interview with KOSU, Senator Yen stated that he plans to remove chronic pain from this list and the bill. His reasoning, “I think that’s just too easily abused by patients.”
SB 1120 also adds restrictions to a variety of other provisions in SQ 788. It would reduce the amount of medical marijuana that patients may legally possess to a 30-day supply and cut a patient’s certification period in half, from 2 years to one. It would also impose harsh punishments on any medical practitioner who knowingly prescribes medical marijuana for a purpose other than the approved conditions. Even point of sale would be affected, requiring dispensaries to use plain, tamper-evident and child-resistant packaging with cannabis trade names subject to approval by the Commissioner of Health.
If SQ 788 is approved by voters on June 26th, it will go into effect on July 26, 2018.
If passed, SB 1120 will go into effect on July 1, 2018.
As you can see, even with a clear path to passing, medical marijuana in Oklahoma is still very much up in the air. After seeing Oklahoma come after our laws here in Colorado, the Medicine Man Technologies team is very aware of how conservative the state can lean. It’s our hope that other state legislators will reject SB 1120 and honor the decision made by the citizens they represent.
If you’re looking to launch a legal medical marijuana enterprise in Oklahoma or elsewhere in the world, please get in touch. We offer private consulting as well as educational seminars throughout the year.