State health board bans smokable medical cannabis

TULSA — The Oklahoma State Department of Health passed a set of rules to govern medical cannabis Tuesday which have sparked outrage and promises of litigation.

For starters, the rules ban dispensaries from selling any form of cannabis that can be smoked or vaped.

They require women of child-bearing age to have a pregnancy test before they can use medical cannabis - a rule that has never applied to opioids or other dangerous medications, critics point out, much less alcohol or cigarettes.

The board won’t allow dispensaries to be within a thousand feet of a church or a school, though it’s unclear what medical implications of such a location might have led to that rule.

The reaction to the board’s decisions has been swift and sharp.

Ryan Kiesel, director of ACLU of Oklahoma tweeted: "In banning all smokeable forms of medical cannabis in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Health Department just guaranteed litigation. This is completely inconsistent with #SQ788 & a responsible medical cannabis program."

New Health Solutions Oklahoma, a trade organization formed to deal with the business aspects of medical cannabis, issued the following statement:

“The Oklahoma State Board of Health today took steps to gut Oklahoma's fledgling medical cannabis program, despite a landslide electoral victory and the support of over 507,000 voters who supported legalization. In split decisions, the Board voted to ban all smokable cannabis products from being sold in dispensaries, banned many edible products and put in place a new requirement for pharmacists to be present in all dispensaries. This comes even though SQ 788 contained explicit language legalizing both smokable and edible marijuana and outlined guidelines for dispensaries.

“Members of New Health Solutions Oklahoma (NHSO), the state's trade group for medical cannabis businesses, said the OSDE Board had usurped the will of the people and insulted voters. They called on Governor Mary Fallin to reject the additional rules and, if she fails to act, asked the Legislature to return to the Capitol in a special session to ensure State Question 788 is implemented as voters intended and expected it to be.

"’The unelected members of the Oklahoma Board of Health have decided their opinions about medical cannabis are more important than the opinions of over half a million voters,' said NHSO Executive Director Bud Scott. ‘Their actions today are an insult to our democratic institutions. We are asking Governor Mary Fallin to do the right thing and reject these additional rules. If she fails to do so, we are asking every legislator, regardless of how they feel about medical cannabis, to come to the Capitol in a special session and restore the rule of law and the will of the voters.’

“Scott said the Board's actions are intended to disrupt the implementation of State Question 788, not to make it safer or more responsible.

“"This is an attempt to kneecap the program, not a good-faith effort to implement it safely,' said Scott. 'The Board's regulations are so overly broad that most medical cannabis products available in other states would be illegal in Oklahoma. Furthermore, the requirement to put a pharmacist in every dispensary will be financially impossible to comply with except for a limited number of dispensaries owned by pharmacists. The Board has essentially just handed control of an entire industry to one special interest group. This is not only inappropriate; it is borderline corrupt.’

"’These rules are unworkable for a functional medical cannabis industry,' said Scott. ‘At this point, the only way to successfully implement State Question 788 is for the Legislature to engage in a special session.’”

So far, there’s been no word from Gov. Fallin’s office.

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